The world has been eagerly waiting for Ariana Grande's massive return. With the world watching her every move, from her romance to her music, this album was meant to change pop music. But will it really? Ariana Grande's Sweetener is too daring for its own good, it's lack of hooks surprisingly and appreciated but by not replacing them, Grande ends up with a lot of empty-sounding tracks.
There are plenty of promising moments on Sweetener, but not as many as you'd hope. Opening track 'raindrops (an angel cried)' is a beautiful acapella intro the start things off, Grande's voice really shining and holding a track all on its own. Let's face it; you're not listening to this record for much else than Grande's voice (and possibly for some girl power too), and this track might just be all you need. 'Blazed' is where the real experimental things kick off, the minimalistic beat follows Grande and Pharrell Williams providing a cool groove, but doesn't really take the track anywhere special as the first full song. Things pick up on single 'God is a woman,' where Grande really ties everything together. A huge, dark, hip-hop-esque beat brings with it great melodies and and empowering flow, Grande's powerful voice really shining here and showing off its diversity. Lead single 'no tears left to cry' is really what seems to be what Grande aimed for with the rest of the songs on the album: strong verses and an understated chorus that's supported by a nice dynamic beat.
Unfortunately, 'no tears left to cry' is really one of the only songs that pulls that off well. There's a lot to be appreciated about how Grande clearly stepped over boundaries for a lot of these songs. Many don't have a catchy hook - or a hook whatsoever - and instead try to focus on the entire message as a whole. The dynamic really gets lost quickly with this one, 'the light is coming' featuring Nicki Minaj being the first taste of a thicker, more driven beat early on in the record, later topped by 'God is a woman' and then not met again. 'everytime' almost gets to that point with its dark beat, but Grande doesn't bring enough into it to make it special. Title track 'Sweetener' is nothing more than a sweet little piano track, followed by the weird 'successful.' 'pete davidson' is pretty much what'd you expect it to be from the title, mostly just coming off as a weirdly non-specific song that goes nowhere.
There's a lot of dynamic and missing points on this record, especially a track specifically about the incident at Grande's Manchester show last year where several fans passed away. Now, it's not that a track about that is warranted. But the best songs come from the deepest emotions, and that dynamic certainly would've been very welcomed on Sweetener. The only semblance of a tribute is the 40 second silence at the end of closing track 'get well soon' which brings the track up to five minutes and 22 seconds - May 22 (5/22) was the date of the show where the terrorist attack occurred. While sentimental for sure, that doesn't quite capture the realer message she could've gone for.
Ariana Grande's Sweetener is too daring for its own good, trying to play things outside of the box but just ending up with weird, empty songs. It's rare to see someone of her stature even attempt to do something like this, especially in their prime, so all the kudos go to her. But still, that doesn't distract from the fact that this record just goes nowhere and really has nothing to say. It's solid on the surface, but it doesn't go much deeper than that.
Favorite Tracks: God is a woman, no tears left to cry
Least Favorite Track: successful
Rating: 70 / 100
Stream or buy Sweetener on Apple Music, and follow our 2018 Playlist on Spotify: