Sensual guitars and Grande’s vocal open ‘God is a woman’, creating a RnB and nu-soul tinged atmosphere full of longing and want. Heavy reggae infused beats and synths fill the song expanding into the pre-chorus with Grande’s voice sliding into her signature higher register. Her vocals quickening and becoming breathless with each line.
And I can be all the things you told me not to be /When you try to come for me, I keep on flourishing/ And he sees the universe when I’m in company/ It’s all in me
The song alone is about sexuality and female sexual pleasure and feeling empowered to ask for what you want and what you enjoy when it comes to sex.
Baby, lay me down and let’s pray/ I’m tellin’ you the way I like it, how I want it // I’ll tell you all the things you should know/ So, baby, take my hand, save your soul
And it could so easily be all that ‘God is a woman’ was destined to be but the video is something else. It is full to the brim of female imagery and religious iconography. From Grande sitting atop of the world, to bathing naked in the sea; from watching nonchalantly as a group of tiny white men throw insults at her from the pages of a newspaper; to her throwing a sledgehammer up through a literal glass ceiling against the backdrop of Madonna reciting a gender-flipped version of Ezekiel 25:17 (think Alanis Morissette in Dogma). The video screams female power and female empowerment in all parts of our lives.
My one, when all is said and done/ You’ll believe God is a woman/ And I, I feel it after midnight/ A feeling that you can’t fight/ My one, it lingers when we’re done/ You’ll believe God is a woman
Please note, that I use the phrase female empowerment sparingly when I write about art and music because it has become cheapened and has lost all meaning, a bit like the phrase “strong female characters”, but in Grande’s case she does not cheapen the word.
It is tongue-in-cheek at times; rodents popping up from the desert and wailing at the song’s midway point, to Grande standing beneath a giant woman’s legs set astride in heels. To it being utterly serious and real with the insults of ‘Bitch’, ‘Slut’ and ‘Fake’’ being thrown in Grande’s direction (not that she seems to care). Terms we as women and girls know only too well when we choose not to conform and behave as society tell us to.
It is also utterly and completely beautiful visually and aurally. The visuals of the earth and solar system, of Grande bathing in what is either the constellations, the sea, or that biblical concoction of milk and honey.
‘God is a woman’ closes with a feminist reimagining of Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam with Grande’s vocals layered over and over again to create a gospel chant of “God is a woman”.
Considering the backlash women and girls are experiencing the United States with the election of Donald Trump pretty much giving the green light to those who share his particular disposition to women as well as the ongoing violence that women and girls experience all over the world, Grande’s ‘God is a woman’ is needed. It is powerful but not preachy. You can choose to listen to the song and hear a woman feeling empowered to tell her partner what she likes and how she likes it in the bedroom. Or you can hear it as something larger than our quest for personal pleasure.
Which is what is so beautiful about art; it can be one thing and everything to you on each listen.
See if you deserve what comes next/ I’m tellin’ you the way I like it, how I want it