HAPPY NEW MUSIC FRIDAY. (New Music Friday is the bain of my existence, but that’s a subject for another time…)
This is a time for celebration: At long last, Ariana Grande‘s fourth studio album Sweetener has arrived.
On her fourth go, the pop princess taps Pharrell, Max Martin and Ilya Salmanzadeh to handle a bulk of the production, with appearances from Nicki Minaj (“the light is coming“) and Missy Elliott (“borderline“), resulting in something of a cross between her very own hit-heavy Dangerous Woman and Pharrell‘s entire discography.
There’s no denying that Ariana‘s voice is at its very best here: her abilities are unmatched among her generation of pop girls. It’s the material that’s lacking: On first impression, Sweetener feels like a mellow and uneven kitchen sink full o’ radio pop (“everytime,” “breathin” and “No Tears Left To Cry“), signature Pharrell-like melodies, (“blazed,” “the light is coming,” “sweetener,” “successful” and “borderline“), experimental R&B grooves (“R.E.M“), lovey dovey bits of balladry (“better off” and “get well soon“), and yes, a mostly satisfying cover of Imogen Heap‘s “goodnight n go.”
There are at least a few solid pop gems buried within this hit-or-miss collection but, for the most part, this album feels like a bit lackluster compared to its predecessors. And while I do commend her for maturing and trying out new things, Sweetener is a just little more Sweet’n Low than I was expecting. With that said, I’m sure many of the songs will grow on me over time.