With her second album in six months, Ariana Grande demonstrates the work ethic required to be the biggest music star on earth, but her efforts feel can laboured and lacking in innovation. It’s a fresh take on modern pop music and certainly something enjoyable and interesting; but it just fails to hit the heights of Sweetener.
Make no bones about it: Ariana Grande is the hottest commodity in the music industry right now. She followed her massive album Sweetener with two chart-topping singles in 7 rings and thank u, next; the latter of which has been unveiled as the title track of this new album here. It is a bold move from Ariana to release two albums in six months, especially given how great Sweetener was, but her stock has never been higher than it is now; so why waste that moment to ride the wave?
It was always going to be a mammoth task to replicate the quality of Sweetener in such a short turnover period, but it certainly wasn’t for the one of trying. There are moments of genuine lyrical excellence on here, the metaphorical use of being a star both in the celebrity and the astrological sense on NASA is cool and delivered with aplomb. Also the very challenging take on coping with the death of ex-boyfriend Mac Miller on ghostin is enlightening and heartbreaking, but also very strong and poignant from someone who has had to deal with an awful lot of turmoil over the past couple of years.
The singles in the lead up to this album were massive moments, with both thank u, next and 7 rings topping the charts and becoming all anyone in the music world spoke about for the days and weeks that followed. Her second single imagine, the album opener, is probably my favourite of the three thanks to her impassioned vocals and ridiculously high notes. Despite the fact that all three of these singles are at the very least okay, none of them can boast the dexterity and catchiness of her Sweetener singles; especially no tears left to cry and God is a woman.
Production wise this album takes more of a hip-hop inspired route, using trap drums and glitzy snares rather than instrumental backing. I think this kind of environment does suit Ariana to the ground, particularly the beat on 7 rings and break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored where she can add some much needed sauce to the track. It’s clear that this is the kind of track she loves making; offering braggadocio and discussing regular modern hip-hop themes of sex and money but in more of a pop-wrapped flavour.
Speaking of break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored, this song has generated quite the buzz on social media, and there’s no prizes for guessing why. The fact that she is promoting this kind of behaviour is worrying, particularly in an age where loyalty seems like a dying form and trust is dwindling; but I feel like this song was done as nothing more than a way to generate buzz and discussion. Ariana has clearly called the song this and used the lyrics in that way to have her name be hot on the presses, it’s the oldest trick in the book and it has worked once again. I don’t necessarily agree with it but hey, Kanye has said far worse over the years so who am I to judge?
While the production does sound trendy and vibrant, it can often be a bit lost in translation, becoming hard to distinguish between one song and the next. The album is far from boring, mainly because Ariana has too much of a story to tell and she is too good at displaying her personality on a track; it just feels frustrating on the odd occasion. Another slight bugbear of mine is the lack of believability, particularly when she starts cursing. It just sounds more often than not like someone who just doesn’t suit that kind of language; but as I say that’s just a bugbear and hardly hinders the album’s quality.
I think it’s safe to say that this album passed the test of relevancy, it will no doubt dominate the airwaves for months to come (probably until Drake releases another unnecessarily long album) and it will provide girls with Instagram captions for a long time; but is it on the level of Sweetener? No. No it isn’t. There are great moments on this, she is clearly a very gifted vocalist with plenty of range, diversity and character to her voice; she also displays bags of personality in her music which has been a distinguishing factor in her breaking away from other popstars. My problem with this album is that it feels a bit stagnant, it flows well enough but there’s no denying that there are peaks and troths to this thing. The highs of NASA and ghostin come with the lows of fake smile and make up. She’s still a megastar and this is far from bad, it just could have been so much more; I fear that Sweetener set the bar too high for Ari.
Be sure to listen to thank u, next here: