Ariana Grande: ‘Sweetener’ Album Review

Hello,

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.

THE REVIEW:

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.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

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,

Chanel

x

 

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Arctic Monkeys: ‘Tranquillity Base Hotel & Casino’ Album Review

Happy Friday!

It’s here, finally after what seems like a century of waiting, the Arctic Monkeys have released their 6th studio album, ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’.

I’m a big fan of the Arctic Monkeys, especially like most of us, the AM album released in 2013. I really can’t find any faults with that album, it definitely is musical perfection, sonically and lyrically and it’s one of my favourites of all time. I’m also a fan of their earlier stuff too, when the band were more interested in the goings on of South Yorkshire and the booming indie-rock scene.

I was headache-inducing excited for the release of this album and discussed every song with a good friend who is also a Monkeys fan. We’d bought tickets to the tour so had high hopes for what we were about to listen to.

Quick disclaimer as usual, 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 presents 11-tracks with a collective time of 40 minutes, which is standard for an Arctic Monkeys album as they’ve all been a very similar length.

THE REVIEW:

Track One – ‘Star Treatment’:

My instant thoughts within the space of the first thirty seconds of the song was that it was insanely Bowie-influenced, very ‘Space Oddity’, which is definitely not a bad thing and brings a whole new sound for the band. Of course, Alex Turner delivers on the lyrical front as always and his falsetto sounds great. I’ve definitely missed his voice over the last few years they’ve been MIA.

Track Two – ‘One Point Perspective’

This is going to make people mad, but when I first heard the piano at the start I thought it was ‘Hard Knock Life’ from the Annie soundtrack…

Getting past that, the piano continues across the track and mingles with smooth guitar to create an almost old sort of arcade type sound. I also caught the lyric, ‘they come out of the cracks, thirsty for blood’ which makes me think of the reference to vampires in the band’s first album Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not with the track, ‘Perhaps Vampires Is a Bit Strong But’. It could be a nod to their first record or I could just be reading into it more than I should.

I especially liked the guitar solo on this track, we don’t get that much from the guitar on this record but it was very welcome in One Point Perspective.

Track Three – ‘American Sports’

Firstly, if you haven’t listened to the album chronologically then I highly recommend you do so. The transitions between the tracks are seamless.

Continuing the space theme, which Turner said was ‘sci-fi’ inspired in his BBC Radio 1 interview, American Sports carries on with the 70’s sounding piano effects. However, without the lack of heavy electric guitar and booming drums it makes me question whether die-hard Arctic Monkeys fans will enjoy or appreciate this new sound or whether it’s maybe just a bit too different.

Track Four- ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’

By the fourth and title track, I was expecting a high energy, jump around typical Monkeys song but instead they’re firmly sticking to the smooth, synthy sound. I feel like this track could fit easily into a slick-crime movie soundtrack. Alex’s falsetto sounds perfect once again, he’s got such a lovely tone to his voice that fits in with the tranquil vibe of the album.

Although, if I’m being completely honest, for a title track this song disappointed me.

Track Five – ‘Golden Trunks’

Upon the first few notes of the song I was once again hoping for an upbeat song, which by this point my expectations of getting any form of the ‘Arctic Monkey indie rock’ they’re so well known for was quickly dying.

Golden Trunks to me is quite an eerie track with the use of the synth. It’s almost Pink Floyd  ‘Dark Side of The Moon’ influenced. I enjoyed the backing vocals on this track they complemented the music nicely.

Track Six – ‘Four Out of Five’

On first listen of the album, this track was my favourite. I feel like this is the track where Alex’s vocals are the most clear and you can appreciate his lyrics the most. Once again, this album to me is extremely 70’s inspired. From the musical style to the references within the song, for example I caught that Alex mentioned ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test’ which was a music based TV show popular in the 1970s.

I like the play on the ‘four stars out of five’ with the album surrounding a hotel theme. This track to me, if you removed the synth and pushed the bass more is the most similar to the style of music on AM.

Track Seven – ‘The World’s First Ever Monster Truck Front Flip’

…is it even an Arctic Monkeys album if there’s not at least one song with a long title?

When Alex said he was inspired by the piano for this album, it’s blatantly obvious. Actually, this song isn’t awful, it has it’s redeeming points, the lyrics are great (as per) and the vocals from both Turner and the other band mates sound lovely but it’s just…similar to Golden Trunks to me. I had more hope for a song with a title as fun as this one.

Track Eight – ‘Science Fiction’

Upon first listen of the album, I didn’t really care much at all for Science Fiction but on a second listen it’s actually a lot more interesting than I initially thought.

This track has a handful of musical influences from different genres. Straight away I pick up on 70s funk and soul with the use of the bass guitar which is accompanied with synth as the song progresses which reminds me a lot of the Ska/Reggae genre (think Ghost Town by The Specials). I think this is a track I’ll find myself listening to quite a lot.

Track Nine – ‘She Looks Like Fun’ 

This song is also interesting, the way the vocals slip from higher notes to a deeper spoken voice during the chorus gives it a darker flair. The best part of this track once again for me is the lyrics. Otherwise, this song is probably a skip for me.

Track Ten – ‘Batphone’

I absolutely adore the lyrics on this track, god bless Alex Turner. This track is one of my favourites on the album, sonically it flows beautifully and breaks into a short guitar solo. If this song was on an earlier album, I think it would have definitely been a stand out track. It makes me a little sad that because the album is all quite similar sounding, this track might get lost in the comparison the rest of the record.

Track Eleven – ‘The Ultracheese’

The final track, ‘The Ultracheese’, is the gem of this record. The slow, melodic track has no synth which has pretty much wrapped its fingers around the rest of the songs on the album and it’s great to just hear Alex singing beautiful lyrics, honestly and with emotion. I can imagine this track will be a favourite for a lot of people who maybe aren’t completely sold on the rest of the space themed album.

FINAL THOUGHTS:

After waiting with baited breath for five years for Arctic Monkeys to release new material, I’m a tad disappointed by Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino.

I completely understand that bands evolve and try out new genres, especially Arctic Monkeys but with this album I feel like they’ve lost the indie-rock influences they’re so insanely popular for. Don’t get me wrong some of the tracks on the album are beautiful and Alex’s vocals and lyrics are top notch as always. I just feel like the songs could be more varied in their sound as I think they’re all pretty similar.

I worry that the fans won’t be too impressed with the album so I’ll be interested to see the feedback on Twitter from those that have listened to the record and bought tickets to the shows.

Thanks for reading,

Chanel

x

 

 

 

 

 

‘Camila’ Camila Cabello Debut Album Review

Before I start this review I want to disclaim that I am not a music expert and the comments you are about to read are all based on what I enjoy personally.

Camila Cabello, formerly of US girlband Fifth Harmony, which she announced her departure from in December 2016, has just released her highly-anticipated debut album, ‘Camila’. Since venturing on a solo career, Camila has had outstanding success with her singles, ‘Crying in the Club’ and ‘Havana’, gaining her first number one in the UK and making the 20-year old singer, a global superstar.

I haven’t really had much interest in Fifth Harmony in the past but all of Camila’s solo released material has had eagerly waiting to see what bop she releases next. I listened to the 11-track album and here are my thoughts…

  • Track One: “Never Be The Same”:

This track is definitely the right way to start off the album. A well produced drum-heavy bassline with reggae influences all complimented by Cabello’s crisp falsetto which sound fantastic in the pre-chorus. I actually could see this track fitting nicely in with Taylor Swift’s 1989 album and we all know how popular that project became. The perfect introduction to set up the listener for the rest of the album.

  • Track Two: “All These Years”:

I loved this song on the very first listen. It’s incredibly easy to listen to, definitely what I would describe as a ‘car song’, perfect for driving and nodding along. The stand out section of the track would have to be the vocal flexes during the bridge, Camila’s vocals sound so interesting and it really makes the song. Short and sweet but not disappointing.

  • Track Three: “She Loves Control”:

YAAAAAAAS GAWD! This track has to be a single! The tropical beat sets this number up for a dance hit, a definite stamp from Skrillex who wrote and produced on the song. The touches of Spanish guitar gives the track as Latino flair which Camila is becoming an expert on incorporating into her songs. The lyrics, ‘She doesn’t cry anymore, no, she doesn’t go to the bar’ could also be a nod to her single ‘Crying in the Club’ which doesn’t feature on the album.

  • Track Four: “Havana”:

There’s not much to say on this song because if you haven’t heard it on a radio or TV over the last few months then you must be living in a different world. I love this song, I’ve played this song on repeat, it’s a banger. As a single, ‘Havana’ definitely showed the public what kind of music would be on the album with the dance and Latino influences.

  • Track Five: “Inside Out”:

Inside Out is the first track on the album that I’m not overly keen on. I tired quite quickly of the repetitive chorus and felt as though it was used as a filler track to slow the pace of the album down a tad. However, I’ll continue to listen and who knows it might be a grower?

  • Track Six: “Consequences”:

This is a pretty song, the lyrics are sweet and well-written which could be the hand of Amy Wadge who writes frequently with Ed Sheeran (please listen to ‘Fire Alarms’ it’s a fantastic song). I like that Camila has toned it down here with a piano based song and you can really hear her emotional connection to the track.

  • Track Seven: “Real Friends”:

Apparently this song had been released before a promotional single in December but I had never heard it before? Saying that, on the first listen I knew straight away it would be one of my favourites on the album. Acoustic guitar based with samples of Tropical and Latino flares makes for a very catchy beat. Not to delve too deeply into the meaning of the lyrics but I think Camila could be hinting about her relationship with her ex-bandmates and their loyalty to her. This track is great, I actually think that Camila sounds great on it but I would love to hear a Justin Bieber remix as I think his vocals would really suit the melody.

  • Track Eight: “Something’s Gotta Give”:

The best way to describe this track is – ‘Cinematic’. Put it into a break-up scene on the big screen and it’ll fit the mood to a T. The piano ballad is very lyrically pleasing and Cabello sounds vulnerable whilst showing of her vocals. I have a feeling she could sing the absolute hell out of this live.

  • Track Nine: “In The Dark”:

When this song first began I thought I wouldn’t like it, the beat was interesting but I couldn’t be sure if I was enjoying it. However, the lyrics of this track really pulled me in, telling a story of wanting to be with a person when they’re alone because that’s the one time they’re open about their feelings. It’s definitely the song on the album that made me concentrate the most and because of that has made it one of my favourites.

  • Track Ten: “Into It”:

Seeing Ryan Tedder’s name on any writing credits is always exciting for me. That man can write a bop! Into It has a really catchy baseline and makes for really pleasing, easy- listening. I enjoyed the ‘Oh Na Na’s’ which were possibly a nod to Havana earlier on in the album. This song could be beautiful live with the right staging and I’m sure this is the track that Camila Cabello fans will have a soft spot for.

  • Track Eleven: “Never Be The Same (Radio Edit)”:

Sigh! Camila why?!

I was really hoping this song would be more of a reprise than a radio edit and it majorly disappointed me that this repeated track was what closed the album. I really feel the penultimate track, “Into It” should have been used instead.

Final Thoughts:

This album is fantastically produced for a debut, props to Frank Dukes who produced and co-wrote most of the tracks. Camila’s song writing and vocals have also pleasantly surprised me and I think she’ll gain huge of respect and credit from her peers in the industry.

Using Latino and Tropical sounds within her music makes this a very strong first album and fits perfectly with the current chart toppers. Camila holds her own vocally and continues to impress. This is a project to be proud of and I’m sure she’ll have a successful career ahead.

Thanks for reading,

Chanel x