Ariana Grande - Sweetener
Aug 27, 2018
48
After the surprisingly good "Dangerous Woman", I was hoping for Grande's follow-up to deliver more pure-gloss pop, but it seems Grande had other plans: taking the position of lead writer for the first time in her career, "Sweetener" sees the pop idol veer much closer to the left than her previous works. Unfortunately, her producers seemingly didn't get the memo.

Pharrell Williams has produced roughly half of the tracks on "Sweetener", and nearly every single one is subpar. Not for the writing, mind; for the most part, Grande succeeds in writing unexpected but enjoyable pop hooks that meaningfully expand her overall sound. No, the faults of tracks like "the light is coming" and "sweetener" lie in limp beats, repetitive riffs, and just generally flat production, all of which seem even more noticeable when sandwiched in-between Ilya Salmanzadeh and Max Martin's tracks.

Ilya and Martin's contributions are the exact kind of ultra-polished pop I'd initially expected from "sweetener", so naturally I'm fairly happy with all of them, but not even they do Grande's writing justice. Apparently, their idea of a left-field pop track is simply sticking a trap-inspired beat over their usual hooks and calling it a day, and their efforts do very little to show off Grande's change in direction. They all work as songs—"God is a woman" is a particularly great number, with its dreamy guitar and gorgeous harmonies in the third chorus—but they succeed mostly because Ariana put care into writing good tracks. In fact, I'd argue that the failings of this album land almost squarely on the seven producers; Grande really tries to show some artistic growth with "Sweetener", but she's been let down by three separate production teams splitting the album's tracks into three drastically different camps which fail to join together as a cohesive whole.

Favourite track: "God is a woman"
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