It may just be one of the most anticipated pop records of the year but does Ariana Grande’s fourth studio album ‘Sweetener’ live up to all the hype? That is the question I am still asking myself after 5 full listens. It’s an interesting collection of melodic and rhythmic pop tracks that aren’t necessarily intended to be chart topping successes. Instead Ariana Grande is experimenting with her sound and finding her voice as an artist through powerful storytelling and a whole lot of emotion.
Majority of the album has been produced by Pharrell Williams and with his recent track record it doesn’t really come by much surprise that this album is a little messy and disjointed. Opening with a beautiful vocal introduction that is dedicated to the Manchester attacks she instantly goes into the seductive ‘Blazed’ which is a little problematic. She tries to deliver a rhythmic beat that sounds like it has been created on Garage Band before offering one of the most repetitive songs you will hear all year with the underwhelming ‘The Light Is Coming’ featuring Nicki Minaj. She tries to offer dreamy and empowering vibes on ‘R.E.M’ and ‘God Is A Woman’ but fails to deliver the impact she was trying so hard to create. But she finally starts to win you over with the funky title track ‘Sweetener’ which is a romantic and ultimately cute track about finding that someone in your life who makes everything a little better and helps switch a negative experience into a positive one. The production is very all over the place but that’s what makes it work so well. The structure is playful and adds to that carefree vibe she describes throughout the storyline. She tries to recreate this moment again on the sassy ‘Successful’ which is meant to come across empowering but instead comes across a little cringe worthy and braggy. ‘Everytime’ and ‘Better Off’ hears her stripping it back with a RNB mid-tempo ballad production which really suits her vocal range and will have you feeling a little dreamy.
Sadly ‘Borderline’ and ‘Pete Davidson’ are a little forgettable in between the likes of the absolute banger ‘No Tears Left To Cry’ and the emotional powerhouse tracks ‘Goodnight N Go’ and ‘Get Well Soon’ which will quickly become some of the most quoted tracks on social media. But this albums defining moment is the empowering and beautiful pop banger ‘Breathin’. For this track she explores her anxieties and the one person that she can turn to, to feel better and stronger. It’s ultimately sweet, relatable and will have you dancing like there’s no tomorrow. “You remind me of a time when things weren’t so complicated. All I need is to see your face”. Why this hasn’t already become a single confuses me because it truly does have chart topping potential.
The main issue with ‘Sweetener’ is that it is melodically all over the place where as ‘Dangerous Woman’ was very consistent with it’s sonical approach. I wanted to be instantly in love with what should be the pop record of the year but instead I’ve found myself trying to convince myself that it’s good. There are beautiful and great moments that come in the second half of the record but it is a bit of an effort to get through everything else. It’s a great album to play in the background whilst you’re doing things but it’s not really the big pop record they were hoping it would be. It’s severely underwhelming, a little messy but it’s heart is in the right place with some beautiful and reflective lyrics that will have you feeling dreamy.
You can purchase a copy of Ariana’s new album from Sanity HERE; https://www.sanity.com.au/products/2378754/Sweetener