It’s been a while since I posted an album review and I’m beside myself with excitement to be returning with a hugely anticipated record, Sweetener, by pop princess, Ariana Grande.
Released on 17th August 2018, Sweetener, Ariana’s fourth studio album has been long awaited since her last record, Dangerous Woman, which dropped in 2016 and gained mass global success.
Tracks from Sweetener that we have already been blessed with include No Tears Left To Cry, God is a Woman and duet with Nicki Minaj, The Light is Coming which have all done fantastically in the UK and US charts.
As always, a disclaimer before I begin. I am no music expert nor do I know anything about the technicality of it. I am simply a music listener and lover and all of what you’re about to read is completely my own personal opinion.
The album has 15 tracks, including collaborations with Pharrell, Missy Elliott and of course, Nicki Minaj. The record collectively adds up to 48 minutes.
Track 1 – ‘raindrops (an angel cried)’:
Ariana starts the record with an acoustic intro. It’s very ‘Over the Rainbow’-esque, which I know Ariana is a huge fan of. However, she wastes no time in showing off her angelic vocal range. The perfect way to open an album.
Track 2 – ‘blazed’ ft. Pharrell Williams:
Instantly, Ariana brings out the vocal layering she’s became so well known for! No one harmonises with Ariana Grande as good as…well, Ariana Grande. I think this tracks is quite influenced by soul and Motown, picking up from the melody and the vocal choices. From the first beat of the song, you can already tell Pharrell has had his clever little fingertips all over this track and in true Pharrell nature, produces a very catch track and chorus.
Track 3 – ‘the light is coming’ ft. Nicki Minaj:
I’m not going to talk too much about this track as I’m guessing the majority of people have heard it already. When I first heard the song, I wasn’t keen at all. I loved Nicki’s addition to the track and thought her vocals really added something to what otherwise was quite a meh song for me. However, the more I’ve listened to it the more I’ve began to like it. I just wish Nicki had maybe another short verse to break up the song a bit more.
Track 4 – ‘R.E.M’:
If I didn’t already know that R.E.M was a reworked Beyonce track, I would have picked up on it within seconds of listening. It’s nice to see Ariana exploring more of an RnB sound on her album as her voice is compatible with the melodies typically used in rhythm and blues music. For Ariana, this track lets her play about with similar styles of vocal arrangement that her musical inspirations, Beyonce, Whitney, Mariah etc are familiar with. It would be amazing if, for a special release, Beyonce could do a short feature of the song.
Track 5 – ‘God is a woman’:
Nothing but scalding hot tea from the queen that is Ariana Grande. We’ve been blessed, God is truly a WOMAN. I’m obsessed with this song, from the high head voice to the RnB beat, it’s a masterpiece. I can’t not mention the music video too, a work of art and the quote from Madonna snatched wigssss.
Track 6 – ‘sweetener’:
It’s time for the title track. If I had to pick out a track on the album that was most similar to her debut album, Yours Truly. However, as expected out of a woman who has grown up and found her musical identity, the lyrics are more mature. Sticking with the typical Ariana piano led melody we all know and love, a synth flair gives it that 80s/90s flair that brings in just a flavour of Mariah. I love this track and the positivity of the lyrics. A perfect fit for a title track.
Track 7 – ‘successful’:
If you ever needed a song to be motivated by, it’s this one. Ariana talks about how successful she is and rightly so, she’s a star that’s had to battle the menaces of fame to come out the other end. It’s great to hear a woman singing about her successfulness rather than having it shoved in our face by male artists and their nine layers of gold chains for once! Once again, Ariana’s vocals sound outstanding playing alongside an angelic lulling piano with a soul/funk beat, a sound that’s became so staple to her vocal identity.
Track 8 – ‘everytime’:
For me, everytime, is the most typical current style for pop music right now. The heavy beat is used alot by the likes of Katy Perry and Taylor Swift and that’s simply because, it works. Its gives some dimension to a song, being able to build up the rhythm. This track is super easy listening. Just one thing, I would love maybe a rap feature on this, perhaps Chance or Quavo?
Track 9 – ‘breathin”:
This track completely sums up to me, who Ariana is as an artist right now. One of my favourites on the album on the first listen with sweet lyrics, a catchy pop beat and insane vocals. ‘breathin’ lets us have a little insight into Ariana’s struggles and her lows, which carries nicely onto the next track where she picks herself up again.
Track 10 – ‘no tears left to cry’:
When Ariana first released this song, I was fully expecting a sad song that maybe gave insight into how Grande was coping with the dreadful Manchester attacks in 2017. Instead, we got a BOP. I’m not joking when I say I played this song for at least one entire week without listening to a single other song. The dancey pop had me dancing about and attempting the high notes at every turn. I really think it’s such a brave move to release such an upbeat song after attacks but it’s done exactly what Grande wanted and brought positivity and optimism.
Track 11 – ‘borderline’ ft. Missy Elliott:
Yeeeeees, come through Fergalicious vibes! This track reminds me of old style Fergie, who I love and miss, come back girl! You can really hear the RnB direction Ariana seems to be steering in clearly on this mellow dance track. Missy feature is nice, short but sweet, which is the premise of the album itself.
Track 12 – ‘better off’:
I love how on this album, Ariana stays completely true to who shes is. You can hear the tracks that could fit into her previous releases and how she’s grown in ability since. I think better off sounds like it’s been plucked straight off of My Everything, which perhaps is comparing her feelings to the person who influenced the second album, to how she sees them now. It’s a easy listening break up song, where Ariana talks about wanting to feel free and wild once again.
Track 13 – ‘goodnight n go’:
This track, played straight after better off, to me shows a sequence of Ariana trying to think about herself and her goals but being unable to ignore her feelings for someone. Comparing to the lyrics in better off, Ariana seems to have found someone who let’s her be young, free and does not dim her shine. Yas, gal! This track is such a sweet love song, which brings us onto the next song.
Track 14 – ‘pete davidson’:
When I first heard Ariana was dedicating a song on her album to her fiance, Pete Davidson, I was concerned. Such a big decision. However, after hearing the track and Ariana referring to Pete as her ‘soulmate’, I thought why the hell not! Why shouldn’t she be singing about her love for her man. The track, which includes a beautiful violin led outro, is again short and sweet but fitting to the structure of the album.
Track 15 – ‘get well soon’:
Ariana bringing back in the broadway/jazz influences with heavy piano, my favourite. I love the way she sounds on this track, it’s really fresh in the current musical climate, although using classic styles. Her harmonies and ad-libs are just incredible as per usual. She’s ending her album on a bang, definitely not a fizzle.
Without a doubt, Sweetener is set to top charts. Ariana has outdone herself once again, keeping true to her musical identity but trying new little flairs to keep her fans hot on their toes. The album has a lot of shorter tracks, which fits in with the purpose of the record, shedding light and positivity, especially after the horrific events of 2017. This is an album both, Ariana, herself and the fans really needed.
The record bursts with happiness and it’s great to see that Ariana is content in her life and it really shows through her music. I can’t wait for tour, I’ll definitely be buying tickets!
To view my previous post, click here.
Thanks for reading,