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Ariana Grande’s new album is semi-sweet

Ariana Grande’s new album is semi-sweet

Ariana Grande’s new album is semi-sweet
August 24
10:00 2018

After a tumultuous year in and out of the spotlight, Ariana Grande returns with her fourth studio album, “Sweetener.”

In one album, Grande proves she’s the reigning queen of modern pop music and isn’t afraid to take risks with her sound. Unfortunately, some risks pay off better than others.

Grande has come a long way from her Nickelodeon days, and this album goes out of its way to set itself apart from her previous releases. “Sweetener” takes twists and turns, experimenting with different genres while still staying true to Grande’s style. There are some new surprises a long-time fan might have some trouble growing used to, but one has to appreciate a pop star who has managed to find a fresh, fun new sound and make it work — for the most part.

This album marks Grande’s first collaboration with acclaimed artist Pharrell, who produced half the tracks on the album. His influence is evident in those songs but is often overwhelming. Grande has never been an artist who needs heavy production to elevate her talent – she’s at her best when her strong vocals are in the spotlight. There’s a lot of unnecessary bells and whistles in this album that are distracting, such as the audio of a man yelling in the background throughout “the light is coming” and the heavy, rhythmic pants in “R.E.M.” The latter still manages to be one of the album’s better tracks regardless. Grande has an incredible voice and shouldn’t have to fight for the listener’s attention.

The best tracks on the album are those that allow Grande to show off her incredible vocals. The third single off her album, “God is a woman,” showcases just how wide her range is and reminds everyone that vocally she’s leagues above all the other pop stars competing with her on the charts. Aside from her somewhat awkward attempt at rapping in the pre-chorus, the hypnotic track is one of the best singles Grande has ever put out. It’s a powerhouse of a banger I wouldn’t mind being constantly played on the radio for the next six months.

One song that definitely should be released as a single is “breathin,’” which is about Grande’s anxiety and how she deals with it as an upbeat pop number. As personal as it is, the track rose to No. 1 on iTunes, showing just how many of her listeners related to the lyrics encouraging them to “just keep breathing” when life gets hard.

Another notable track is her cover of Imogen Heap’s “Goodnight and Go.” Grande’s remix, “goodnight n go,” breathes new life into the eight-year-old pop single, adding a dreamy, romantic feel to the album. Another song in the same vein is “better off,” where the melancholy lyrics about the end of a relationship is juxtaposed by romantic violins. It’s later followed by “pete davidson,” a short interlude that serves as a musical love letter to Grande’s new fiancé and a promise that they’ll live happily ever after.

Not all the songs on the album reach those same heights, though. Some songs don’t make good use of Grande’s talent and fall flat, such as her latest collaboration with Nicki Minaj, “the light is coming.” While the two have proven to be a dynamic musical duo in the past, with bangers like “Side to Side” and the under-appreciated “Get On Your Knees,” this latest collaboration is a rare misstep. Minaj’s verse is the best part of the underwhelming track, but even then it’s far from Minaj’s personal best, and the whole song leaves much to be desired. Another Pharrell-produced track, “successful,” has Grande relishing in her professional achievements and encouraging listeners to take pride in their own accomplishments. While Grande does have a lot to be proud of, this track in particular is pretty forgettable.

The album’s closing track, “get well soon,” is one of Grande’s best, and it’s also one of the simplest. Grande’s voice is accompanied by little more than a piano and finger snaps, and it needs nothing else. It’ll get the listener to dance with the comfort that for those few minutes, everything will be alright. It’s a track that’s filled with hope, as Grande wrote it to help her cope with the grief and anxiety she felt following the Manchester terrorist attack that killed 22 concert-goers last year. Even in such an upbeat number, one feels the weight of the 40 seconds of silence added at the end in order to bring the track’s runtime to five minutes and 22 seconds, honoring the date of the attack, May 22.

In “Sweetener,” Grande manages to reach new heights in her career, with a few missteps. The album is a mixed bag of genres and sounds, but Grande’s talent manages to pull it all together as one of the more noteworthy albums of the year. It’s more cohesive than her previous albums, and Grande has never sounded more sure of herself. “Sweetener” will keep listeners on their toes and will leave them interested in seeing how her sound will change again in the future.

Stream It: “God is a woman,” “breathin’” and “get well soon”
Skip It: “the light is coming (feat. Nicki Minaj)” and “successful”

My Rating: 3.5/5

Featured Image: Courtesy Facebook

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Parisa Nasiripour

Parisa Nasiripour

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