Ariana Grande: Sweetener

Posted October 20, 2018 by in Pop



3/ 5


Genre: ,
Producer: , , , , , , ,
Genre: R&B, pop, trap
Producer: Ariana Grande, Scooter Braun, Charles Anderson, Brian Malik Baptiste, Tommy Brown, Michael Foster, Hit-Boy, Ilya, Max Martin, Pharrell Williams
Label: Republic
Format: Digital download, compact disc, streaming
Time: 47:25
Release Date: 17 August 2018
Spin This: "Blazed," "No Tears Left to Cry," "R.E.M"


Jumps in Pharrell's deeper experiments, attempting a new breed of pop. Some of it is quite appealing; transparent content in toxic relationships and dealing with survival and the Manchester bombing are also addressed


Total abandonment of the electro-pop and bubblegum pop that's so identified her early sound feels deliberate

Pop ‘n B princess delves deeper, gets personal om explorative urban disc

by J Matthew Cobb
Full Article

Pop ‘n B princess delves deeper, gets personal om explorative urban disc

arianagrande-03Ariana Grande’s 2014 disc My Everything is going to be almost impossible to triumph. It’s her Thriller, her magnum opus so far. And no, 2016’s Dangerous Woman didn’t come close to matching itfeeling like a wrought follow-up. So anything she does from this moment on will lie in the shadows of that piece of greatness. That even applies for Sweetener, an experimental set that primarily jumps out of the lane of safety. It’s not her usual new-century Mariah or the electro-pop from her last sets. You can hear her appetite for exploration inside the spacey Nicki Minaj-guested “The Light Is Coming,” the Quiet Storm-channeled “God Is a Woman and the clubby title track. This venture is a little more bizarre as she tries to bend the rules of Top 40 pop using the cross-pollination of hip-hop beats and wussy trap, all laid down by the forces of Pharrell Williams and ILYA. Even the Missy Elliott-guested “Borderline” doesn’t sound like nothing Missy would’ve appeared on. It’s a bit of a stretch, but after hearing the cowbell atop those buzzy synths, it manages to stick to the ear. Some of these experiments work, giving her a fresher sound and shooting down the pesky Mariah rivalry in this hour. And some are just a little unnerving, like the unnecessary lowercased first letters of each song title. Ugh.

But standing tall as the greatest of these experiments is “No Tears Left to Cry,” a track that blends hip-hop with old school disco. It’s impossible to shake its grooves and divine purpose as she faces a golden opportunity on a Saturday night to dance her cares away. “R.E.M” does a stellar job in finding a sweet spot matching her throwback contemporary soul, aided by the use of her airy ethereal register and Beyonce-esque melisma. “Blazed,” a Pharrell-guested neo-funk track, impresses with its whirlwind of Earth, Wind & Fire motifs. There’s also “Better Off,” a track that painfully deals with saying goodbye to a hurtful relationship gone sour. Possibly penned about her experiences with Mac Miller, she clearly gets personal (“And if were being honest/I’d rather your body than half of your heart”) and express how road life has helped in its failure (“On the road a lot, had to keep it a thousand/So that I’m better off not being around ya.”). It’s kinda rough learning all of this after the fact, after Miller, who guested on her breakout “The Way,” ended his own life in a rules suicide possibly due to heartbreak, but Grande shouldn’t be penalized for putting her frustrations and emotions to song.

Yeah, the lyrics are a little deeper, reflective and personally involved this time around. She gets major points for that. And even if she’s cooing on the tracks with a breathy sex appeal, she still manages to make you think. For example, check out Grande’s angelic vocals stacked on top of each other on the sleek R&B gem “Get Well Soon,” a tribute to the victims of the Manchester bombing. And the very brief “Pete Davidson,” obviously about her love for SNL comedian Pete Davidson, finds her singing “Imma be happy,” even though a turn of events would put that happiness on hiatus. Props to her for exploring newer depths on Sweetener, but this ultimately takes a back seat to My Everything.


About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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