Ariana Grande – Sweetener

August 18, 2018 at 3:02 PM | Posted in Ariana Grande | Leave a comment

sweetener1ALBUM REVIEW
Ariana Grande – Sweetener

1. Raindrops (An Angel Cried)
2. Blazed (feat. Pharrell Williams)
3. The Light Is Coming (feat. Nicki Minaj)
4. R.E.M.
5. God Is A Woman
6. Sweetener
7. Successful
8. Everytime
9. Breathin
10. No Tears Left To Cry
11. Borderline (feat. Missy Elliott)
12. Better Off
13. Goodnight n Go
14. Pete Davidson
15. Get Well Soon

♦ ♦ ♦

sweetener2Sweetener is the third album by American singer Ariana Grande, released on August 17, 2018.

Raindrops (An Angel Cried) is an acapella intro track and it’s a cover of The Four Season’s song ‘An Angel Cried’. Only a little part of the song is used, but it shows off Ariana’s amazing vocals and sets the tone for the album.

Blazed (feat. Pharrell Williams) is bound to become a hit because everything Pharrell touches becomes instant gold. It has his typical sound too with a nice beat and a breezy vibe to it. I like how Ari uses the more husky side of her voice for this one, it makes it a very relaxed track. It’s catchy, not the best from her but a good one.

The promotional single The Light Is Coming (feat. Nicki Minaj) is something I did NOT expect from Ari. Nicki opens the trip/hiphop track with her raps and I have a weak spot for her so I don’t mind at all. Then it goes in a whole other direction and I don’t know whether I find it catchy or annoying. The sample of the male exclaiming ‘You wouldn’t let anybody speak for this and instead!‘ is repeated way too often. Maybe this will grow on me.

R.E.M. keeps the hiphop vibe but moves into a more sultry and sexy vibe. Ariana can do slow jams like no other so this is a welcome change. What really draws attention here is Ari’s layered vocals which always sound good. Other than that, this is just a basic track although not unpleasant.

The album’s second single and a big hit is God Is A Woman, a track filled with confidence, femininity and sexuality. It’s actually the first track on the album that I really like. It has an amazing hiphop/pop arrangement, even some influences of reggae and trap, and that last bit where Ari’s vocals are multiplied so often she sounds like a whole choir makes it magical. I could see myself listen to this more often!

Sweetener, the album’s title track, is an interesting one. At first I thought it would be an uptempo track, but it turns into this hiphop slow jam that fits the previous tracks well. It’s got that ‘when life gives you lemons, make lemonade’ vibe going on and the computer game sound effects and the ‘sneezes’ make it a bit quirky (they might have overdone it a bit but at least it’s not a boring track, in fact it’s one of the better ones so far).

It’s nice to hear that Successful is a bit more funky and bouncy. The lyrics are a bit cocky at times, even though it’s meant to be a song of empowerment but it just doesn’t feel like that. It’s a song with a very constant vibe so it’s almost a bit too constant, but in the end the sort of steelpan addition makes it better.

There’s something about Everytime that I really like. It’s another midtempo hiphop/R&B track, reminiscent of the early 00s, but it’s in a very likeable key I haven’t heard that often on the album so far. This is the kind of music I’d love to hear from Ari more.

sweetener3Breathin is the first track that moves the album into another direction with a synthpop approach. I’m instantly attracted to it, perhaps because it’s not that experimental. It has a nice ethereal quality and those layered vocals I love so much.

FINALLY the lead single No Tears Left To Cry is here. The lyrics ‘I’m picking it up‘ get a whole new meaning on the album since she’s actually picking up the general pace with this one. The dance-pop/disco style fits Ari so well and she sounds amazing, which she deserves praise for since this song is about the Manchester Arena bombing and it’s great to hear she can’t be defeated.

Borderline (feat. Missy Elliott) is a fun little track that combines the hiphop style from the first half of the album with the synthpop from the past few ones. Missy’s influence is way too small, but somehow producer Pharrell made the arrangement in a way that makes her presence a bit easier to feel.

Better Off is another nice slow jam and actually one of the oldest songs on the album, and it almost didn’t make the cut. I’m glad it did because it has an interesting arrangement, especially on the chorus, and I like the lyrics (‘If we’re being honest, I’d rather your body than half of your heart‘).

I like how Goodnight n Go features a sample of Imogen Heap’s song with the same name. Ari left enough of the original to be enjoyed, but made it her own with a trap production and and arrangement that is among the best on the entire album. Definitely one of the best tracks.

One moment Ari was in a relationship with Mac Miller, the next she’s enganged to a guy named Pete Davidson. Whatever floats her boat. This is an interlude dedicated to Pete and although it’s short it’s also sweet and happy, filled with strings and a nice beat.

Saving the most emotional track for last, Get Well Soon deals with Ari’s anxiety she experienced after the Manchester Arena bombing. It’s a soulful track with mostly just a piano and fingersnaps, focusing on Ari’s vocals and the lyrics. It’s also a nice support track for her fans and people who have lost loved ones in said attack. Quite a long track, but the album just needed it. Note that the track is followed by 40 seconds of silence for a total running time of 5:22 minutes; the attack happened on May 22.

I hate to say it, but I’m not as impressed by this album as I hoped I would be. No Tears Left To Cry is easily the best song and it soooo does not represent the overall style, which is too bad. Ari experimented with this, but in my opinion she should just stick to what she has always done because that just works best. Many tracks just weren’t that memorable, only a few were catchy or original enough to stand out. It’s still decent, but her previous work is what made me love her, not this.

Favorite songsGod Is A Woman | Sweetener | Everytime | Breathin | No Tears Left To Cry | Goodnight n Go

OVERALL RATING
starstarstarblankstarblankstar
3 stars

sweetener4

Ariana Grande – My Everything

December 26, 2014 at 5:50 PM | Posted in Ariana Grande | Leave a comment

ALBUM REVIEW
Ariana Grande – My Everything

1. Intro
2. Problem (feat. Iggy Azalea)
3. One Last Time
4. Why Try
5. Break Free (feat. Zedd)
6. Best Mistake (feat. Big Sean)
7. Be My Baby (feat. Cashmere Cat)
8. Break Your Heart Right Back (feat. Childish Gambino)
9. Love Me Harder (feat. The Weeknd)
10. Just A Little Bit Of Your Heart
11. Hands On Me (feat. A$AP Ferg)
12. My Everything

♦ ♦ ♦

My Everything is the second studio album by American singer Ariana Grande, released on August 22, 2014. The album peaked at #1 in six countries and has sold 169,000 copies in the US in its first week.

Intro is just as it sounds: a lovely opening track with soft music and Ariana’s light and angelic vocals in harmony. I don’t really know why it’s here, but oh well. Its light sound makes that Problem (feat. Iggy Azalea) has even more impact, like BOOM there it is. Ari’s huge voice and that inescapable horn riff make this song, and it’s undoutedly one of the best and catchiest songs of 2014. Iggy Azalea contributed wonderfully to it, gurl power.

The synth line and looming percussion opening One Last Time instantly shows the new road Ariana has taken with this album: more EDM and electropop. Still this song is more on the lighter side of that genre, not too in your face but pleasant to the ears. I really like Ari’s breathy vocals here, especially in the verses. I had to get used to this, but now I love it.

It’s clear from the sound of Why Try that Ryan Tedder contributed to it, and it’s one of the songs of the album I remember best. It’s like Ari’s own ‘Halo’ song, a midtempo percussion and strings driven song that makes her voice shine like never before. As the song progresses it gets stronger and stronger and you can almost feel Ariana’s anxiety, such an amazing performance!

Another great single (and one that was released on my birthday!) is Break Free (feat. Zedd). Over the summer this has been one of everyone’s absolute favorites, and I was one of those people who couldn’t help themselves and had to sing along to it everywhere they went. Zedd is the king of EDM and this laser themed club banger is probably among his best work.

Just like on her previous album, Ariana worked with her boyfriend Big Sean. Best Mistake is the first song to bring a different sound to the album since it’s a minimal hip-hop piano ballad and ofcourse it’s a genre Ariana handles very well. I just don’t know about Big Sean, but apparently I’m not the only one who thinks he may not fit the overall minimal sound of the track (critics also feel that way). Other than that, a welcome variation.

Ariana never fails to bring on that 90s Mariah Carey vibe and Be My Baby (feat. Cashmere Cat) is another perfect example of that. It’s a nice song that adds a touch of R&B to the album as a whole, but just like some of Mariah’s songs it sounds a little too empty and generic for me to fully enjoy it, although it has its moments.

A lot of featured artists here. Still the little misstep of the previous track makes Break Your Heart Right Back (feat. Childish Gambino) shine even more, and that suprised feeling becomes even stronger when I hear Diana Ross’ ‘I’m Coming Out’ sampled in the chorus! I love the funky sound and even Childish Gambino is not superfluous.

The third single off the album is the catchy hit Love Me Harder (feat. The Weeknd) with great vocals by both Ari and Abel Tesfaye. I love how this is a darker 80s synthpop track that you wouldn’t necessarily expect from someone like Ariana and she still can make it work so well. It’s not too complicated a song, but definitely one of late 2014’s gems.

For all the Directioners out there: yay, a song co-written by Harry Styles (not too exited about that myself but oh well). Just A Little Bit Of Your Heart is actually the first real ballad on the album without any beats or interruption from a featured artist, so there is plenty enough room for Ariana to take the stage. It’s just a lovely track that can have the tendency to emotionally grab you, but it got me only 99% of the way.

Hands On Me (feat. A$AP Ferg) brings out Ariana’s inner Rihanna and it totally makes clear her Nickelodeon days are over for good. This track had me surprised like never before and I am completely struck by how much I love the mature and sexy hip-hop sound. I don’t know who A$AP is but this song would’ve been less kickass without him. I love it!

Closing the album, there is the title track My Everything, a short and sweet piano ballad carried by Ariana’s powerful yet light vocals. By the times she reaches the chorus there are goosebumps all over my body and I can’t shake how gorgeous this track is in all its minimalism. Sometimes I think this would’ve been better as the opening track instead of that intro, but at least it gives the album a close with dignity.

When I first heard the album I thought it was lacking so much and I was like “WHY didn’t she stick to the sound of ‘Yours Truly’??” But then I remembered I didn’t take the time then to really listen to the album, so I sat down again and this time I really gave in to everything. My final conclusion? This album is actually better than ‘Yours Truly’ in its own way and it’s also one of the most enjoyable albums of 2014! Ariana has joined forces with some major names here and it couldn’t have worked out better for her. Girl, you’re gonna be a huge star, if you aren’t one already.

Favorite tracks: Problem (feat. Iggy Azalea) | One Last Time | Why Try | Break Free (feat. Zedd) | Break Your Heart Right Back (feat. Childish Gambino) | Love Me Harder (feat. The Weeknd) | Hands On Me (feat. A$AP Ferg) | My Everything

OVERALL RATING
starstarstarstarhalfstar
4½ stars

Ariana Grande – Yours Truly

September 22, 2013 at 6:37 PM | Posted in Ariana Grande | 1 Comment

ALBUM REVIEW
Ariana Grande – Yours Truly

1. Honeymoon Avenue
2. Baby I
3. Right There (feat. Big Sean)
4. Tattooed Heart
5. Lovin’ It
6. Piano
7. Daydreamin’
8. The Way (feat. Mac Miller)
9. You’ll Never Know
10. Almost Is Never Enough (feat. Nathan Sykes)
11. Popular Song (feat. MIKA)
12. Better Left Unsaid

♦ ♦ ♦

Yours Truly is the debut album by American singer Ariana Grande, released on August 30 2013. The album debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 with 138,000 copies sold and debuted in the top ten in several other countries, including Australia, the UK and Ireland.

The album opens with a ballad, and although I find that tricky most of the time, Honeymoon Avenue captures my attention enough. It opens with a lot of strings and Ariana’s Mariah Carey-esque adlibs before moving into a very attractive R&B style of music. It’s a long track, but Ariana’s vocals are the highlight that keeps everything flowing right. I especially love the prechorus of the song, but the entire song is a big recommendation to everyone who needs to get acquainted with her music yet.

I always thought Baby I is amazing because of its throwback to 90s R&B while still sounding very modern, probably because of Babyface’s involvement in the production. It’s one of my favorite songs on the album and one of the songs with a more fierce attitude. Still it has a very breezy sound, almost like a summer song. This song perfectly explores Ari’s amazing vocals and her ability to sing in the whistle register. Amazing song ❤

Right There (feat. Big Sean) is a midtempo R&B song with some hiphop elements, especially because of Big Sean’s raps (don’t know who this guy is tbh, I know him as Naya Rivera’s bf). It could’ve been a generic R&B song if it wasn’t for Ari’s ability to spice up a song with her vocal acrobatics and Big Sean’s great rap vocals. Luckily, it’s everything a song in this genre needs to be. Not the best, not the worst.

One of the songs that has stayed with me most is Tattooed Heart, a song in triple time that reminds me a bit of 1960s music as featured in musicals like Hairspray and such. The song is filled with strings and piano music, underlined by a soft and smooth beat. I really liked the deeper and bolder side of Ari’s vocals in this song with less use of the head voice. It’s short compared to the previous tracks, but it’s so sweet it’s bound to stay in your head for the rest of the day.

Lovin’ It brings back the R&B/Hiphop style that Right There and Baby I had, but in a more uptempo fashion. Of all the songs up until now, this one seems inspired by Mariah Carey’s music the most because of not only the musical ambience, but it’s clear that Ari draws her vocal inspiration from MC as well. It’s just a sweet and smooth song, and also the shortest on the album, but it’s very enjoyable.

Keeping up the uptempo quality of this section of the album, Piano sounds exactly like its title. It’s filled with piano chords, but the handclaps, synths and beat make it very happy and it could almost be a party song in some way. It’s one of the catchiest songs on this album with very appealing and lovely lyrical content. The chorus is repeated very often in the end, but that’s not a bad thing in this case. Just go with the flow with this one.

Daydreamin’ is the sister song to Tattooed Heart because both have that retro triple time piano ballad quality with a rather bouncy feel. It’s a sweet song and although there’s another song sounding a bit like it, it has its own unique sound. I love it when Ari sings with herself in harmony near the end of the song and the background vocals are crazy high. Her voice is amazing in this track, seriously.

Ah, the single that skyrocketed her career. The Way (feat. Mac Miller) features a bouncy piano riff and throwback R&B beats to make it another great retro/modern combination. Mac Miller and Ariana are both feeling this song, but Ari’s amazingly airy yet full vocals are as always the center piece of the song. This is such a soulful and mature song for Ari, I totally love it.

Although You’ll Never Know isn’t a very generic song, somehow I totally forgot all about it until I heard it again. It has a very appealing R&B sound with perfect beats and blazing synths, and Ari’s vocals are top notch, but I guess a lot of the previous songs outperform this one. Still it instantly displays Ariana’s musical style, so I wouldn’t dismiss this song right away.

The second long song on this album besides Honeymoon Avenue is Almost Is Never Enough featuring The Wanted member Nathan Sykes. The song is an emotional piano ballad about a love that almost was, and Ari has found her vocal match in Nathan since they both have amazing vocals. They sound perfect together and both deliver the right amount of emotion to the song. Despite the sad lyrics, this song is pure musical magic.

WOW, I love this next song. Popular Song (feat. MIKA) is the perfect song for those who are being bullied or used to be to finally stand up and feel good about themselves. This is such a catchy and playful song that gives you an amazing kick, and Ari and MIKA are another great vocal match on this album. This song is more like MIKA than Ari and it doesn’t quite fit the rest of the album, but that doesn’t matter because this song KICKS ASS OKAY.

Better Left Unsaid closes the album with a lot of energy and a musical sound that can’t be found anywhere else on the album. The verses are very toned down, then the tension builds and the chorus goes full blown with a lot of beats and synths. Like a real club banger, if you please. Not the most memorable song on the album, but it’s a nice song if you’d like to hear something different from Ari.

I was very curious about Ariana Grande’s debut when it was first announced, like, a century ago. Then finally, after a lot of pushbacks and changes, Yours Truly was released, and I fell even deeper in love with this girl than I already was. Who doesn’t love Ariana as Cat in Victorious and Sam & Cat?! Well, that cute girl can’t be found on this album since this is the mature Ari we’re talking about. She is compared to Mariah Carey a LOT, and although that’s a huge compliment, I think an even bigger compliment is to state that ARI HAS ARRIVED. Ladies and gentlemen, behold: a star is born.

Favorite songs: Honeymoon Avenue | Baby I | Tattooed Heart | Daydreamin’ | The Way (feat. Mac Miller) | Almost Is Never Enough (feat. Nathan Sykes) | Popular Song (feat. MIKA)

OVERALL RATING
starstarstarstarhalfstar
4½ stars

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