A Fresh Look and All-Star Collabs: A Review of Ariana Grande’s Newest Album

“Sweetener” plays with themes from “Yours Truly,” mixing old styles with newer sounds.

My following of Ariana Grande’s musical creations began the day “Put Your Hearts Up” came out, the normal light-hearted teen bop that one would expect from a blossoming Nickelodeon star. It stayed persistent and one of my favorite subjects through the debut of “Christmas Kisses,” Grande’s 2013 Holiday EP. After that, my interest dropped off with the end of “Victorious” and a new interest in “Doctor Who” (let’s not talk about it). I really only payed attention when a certain song piqued my interest or a friend played an album in the car.

The announcement of “Sweetener,” however, caught my ear, and the release of “God is a woman” and “no tears left to cry” stirred an excitement in me that I hadn’t felt in five years. Here’s a comprehensive review of my favorite tracks, and the album as a collective art piece.

Track One: “raindrops (an angel cried)”

“raindrops” starts the album off with an airy acapella, providing an intro that fits in well with the motifs and recurring themes of an angelic, almost dream-like state and feeling. At only 37 seconds in length, it sets the mood effectively and provides the album with a great starting point.

Track Three: “the light is coming (feat. Nicki Minaj)”

From the moment this track’s heavy beat drops in the first seconds, followed by short sound bites, it’s clear that a bop is about to grace the ears of whoever is listening. Ariana’s “the light is coming to give back everything the darkness stole” refrain is very catchy and got stuck in my head for hours after listening it to the first time. However, the quality parts of the song are Nicki’s verses, and for that reason I believe that this song belongs on a Nicki Minaj album more than an Ariana Grande album.

Track Four: “R.E.M”

“R.E.M,” the first track in the album to have any capital letters, returns to the airy theme that “raindrops (an angel cried)” established in the beginning of the set. With catchy lyrics and a nice beat to back the melody that doesn’t deter the dreamy vibe of the entire song, “R.E.M” sends me back to the days of “Yours Truly,” Ariana’s first album. With lyrics like “before you speak, don’t move/cause I don’t wanna wake up,” and “you’re such a dream to me,” this whimsical love track makes me want to confess my feelings to my crush and cuddle them close.

Track Five: “God is a woman”

The last single of the album to be released, “God is a woman” (the only other track with any capital letters) not only drops a heavy beat worthy of dancing to, but preaches female power and is accompanied by a phenomenal music video with a large dose of feminist motifs. This empowering anthem shifts from a simple melody to one with many overlapping voice tracks that creates a chorus feel, feeding into the angelic style that Ariana is known for.

Track Six: “sweetener”

Most definitely my favorite track of the album and the one with the most “Yours Truly” vibes, “sweetener” combines a healthy dose of piano with a heavy beat to mesh the style of her first album with her newest ones.

Track Ten: “no tears left to cry”

My favorite single of the album (and my third favorite track overall), “no tears left to cry” is without a doubt the best song of the album to dance to. The varying rhythms of the lyrics align perfectly with the beat, and the overall vibe of the track has the ability to make anyone bob their head along, no matter where they are.

Track Fifteen: “get well soon”

The final track of “Sweetener” and my second favorite, “get well soon” features heavy piano and snapping, taking me back once again to the style of “Yours Truly.” Despite being the longest track on the album, the entire five minutes spent listening to the song are not a waste. The simple use of only piano, snapping and soft beat, make this song another one perfect for relaxing to, and closes out the album flawlessly.

While the tracks of “Sweetener” vary in my approval, the overall product of the album is very pleasing. As Ariana’s first album to feature a colored cover, a very delightful aesthetic is produced when combined with the minimalist song titles. I loved the use of old styles incorporated into new ones, and many of the tracks have made it into my Apple Music library.

The only issues that I had with the album besides the few songs that did not meet my taste were the absence of transitions, the lack of one overall style of music, and the fact that the order of the tracks made it so some of them did not blend with the others. While it may be a personal opinion, transitions in albums are not only pleasing to the mind but add to the overall experience of listening to a tracklist in full, and not on shuffle (for a excellent example of the use of transitions, I highly recommend Janelle Monae’s “Dirty Computer”). The stark contrast between songs like “the light is coming” and “better off” throw off the natural flow of the album, and whether or not this is on purpose, makes the Type-A side of me shudder at the disorganization.

Despite its flaws, “Sweetener” lives ups to my expectations, and has provided me with a few songs that I can bop to on my way to film studies or French 1200. With a solid rating of 8/10, I’d recommend this album to any pop-lover or former Ariana fan and can only hope that her next album is even better.

Edited by Siena DeBolt | sdebolt@themaneater.com

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