2018 and 2019 were big years for Ariana Grande. Dropping two fantastic and cutting edge pop albums with sweetener and thank u, next. Along with this, there were massive arena tours, headlining slots of Coachella and Lollapalooza, and a lot of success in general. So given how big those years were, it would make sense for Ariana to take some time off, take a little break, maybe take a year or two off and try to not just enjoy her successes, but to try and cultivate another great album but instead, here we are, a little over a year and a half later, with a brand new Ariana Grande album. The rollout for this album happened really quick with Ariana tweeting about how we were getting a new album in October, dropping a single the next week, then dropping the album the week after that. Now given how personal her previous albums were, I was curious to hear if she would go down the personal road once again or if we were gonna have another fun pop album in the style of Dangerous Woman. Also given those previous albums, I was expecting another strong set of songs with solid production, and it's safe to say, I got at least some of that.
|Grande in a promotional image for the album.
The album is 14 songs, runs 41 minutes long, and it's a pretty obvious step down in quality, but to be fair, almost anything would be a step down after having Pharrell produce one of your albums then dropping your best album a year and a half prior. And that's not me saying I don't like this album, I do, I just don't think it's anything groundbreaking or experimental, just a solid set of songs tied together by great production that you can't really love or hate.
That being said though, this album gets off to a really rough start. The opening song shut up has these really sweet plucked string lines and some great harmonies but, let's not kid ourselves, the lyrics are merely here because they have to be. Ariana is literally singing nothing of substance on this song. She's just telling me in 4 different octaves that I sound dumb and I need to shut up. Very compelling stuff here. The song 34 + 35 is about...you know. The production on here is great with these smooth trap drums pairing nicely with a strong bassline and some more strings. The lyrics on this song are downright hilarious, with Ariana singing in the pre-chorus:
I've been drinking coffee
And I've been eating healthy
You know I keep it squeaky, yeah
and asking in the chorus, "can you stay up all night? / f*ck me 'til the daylight?" The third verse is a wild ride that I can't even begin to explain, just, go google it. I think I might have to call the Horny Police on Ms. Grande because we haven't seen her like this since Side to Side dropped. Then there's the song motive which again, great production, there's great energy to it, but any momentum the song had going for is brought to a screeching halt when Doja Cat comes in because she sounds god awful over this beat. She sounds like she's been sucking down cigarettes ever since quarantine started like it's going out of style.
Things start looking up after those songs though as the song just like magic is already an improvement. Ariana's lyrics see her in a more braggadocious way, singing about she gets everything she wants because she attracts it, and how she has to "keep a slim ego for a thick wallet." It's a really sweet tune. Then there's off the table featuring none other than The Weeknd who's been dominating the music world this year. The song starts off with this sort of dark energy that resolves as Ariana starts singing with these synth swells and some subtle guitar plucking. The production on this song is insanely good. I just feel myself floating higher and higher above the clouds while I listen to it. The song shows Ariana questioning whether she's ready to dive back into another relationship while Abel tells her "don't worry, I'm here for you, if you're not ready, I can wait." Both of them really shine vocally with Ariana reaching these crazy high notes in the back half of the song. It's in the running for the best song on this album. But almost immediately after this, we take two steps back with the song six thirty which might be one of the corniest songs I've heard this year with Ariana singing about how this lover can only stay mad for a minute "so come here and give me some kisses," or even worse later on when she says "I'm the release, you the dopamine." But perhaps the worst offender is the hook on this song with Ariana asking this lover if he'll be "down like 6:30," because you know, hands on the clock are...yep. How did this get on here?
Luckily six thirty is the last of the speedbumps on this album. Not surprising is that the song safety net featuring Ty Dolla $ign is fire. There's a really great guitar lead and the chorus on this song is to die for. I also really love the moments when Ariana and Ty are duetting on the second half of the song because their voices pair together so well. The song my hair is a cute song about Ariana letting her hair down for her lover before...Does anyone have the horny police's number? I might have to call them before this review ends. The beat is great with this really neat drum loop, some percussion, and some strings hanging around in the background of the choruses. I also really like the trumpet solo in between the chorus and verses. Ariana also pulls off these absolutely crazy high notes during the last chorus. I don't even know how hitting a note like that is even possible. nasty has this really spacey beat and once again shows Ari's raunchiness in full display singing about how she wants to make time for her man because "this p*ssy designed for ya," she also says this hilarious double entendre where she goes: "Switch from the bed to the couch / And get to know how I'm feelin' inside." It's hilarious.
The song west side almost feels like an interlude. It comes and goes before it even really presents itself and it doesn't even bow out well, just kind of fading out after the last chorus. love language is an absolute banger with a beat that makes you just want to jump up and bust a move. I don't know but it almost reminds me of the song Watch Me While I Bloom from Hayley William's solo album, Petals for Armor. I love how the strings just keep building up and up as the song progresses and Ariana's performance on this song is great. There's another hilarious one-liner in here where she says "pardon my French, but can you speak in tongues?" The title track is a song I knew I enjoyed from before since it was the lead single for this album. There's another great plucked string lead and some really nice acoustic guitar chords throughout the chorus that really give this song a summer vibe...even though it's now November. I love the line in the chorus where she says "I'm in the Olympics, way I'm jumping through hoops." The album ends on a really high note with the songs obvious and pov. obvious shows Ariana confessing that she's starting to believe in love again, singing in the pre-chorus:
Others that I've had had to impress me before
But I knew you were the real thing
When you walked through the door
I didn't think that I would have to spell it out
pov is an amazing close to this record with Ariana showing off her vocal chops one more time before the album closes out with a really heartfelt and passionate performance. The message of the song is super sweet as well with Ariana singing about how she wants to see herself from her lover's point of view just to understand why he loves her so much. The way the instrumental builds as the track progresses as well is also amazing with these strings just building up more and more reaching this great climax at the end of the last chorus.
|Grande performing at the 2019 Coachella Music and Arts Festival.
So overall, I enjoyed this album, but this album is very easy to like. While I do like Ariana getting more introspective and taking more risks production-wise, it makes sense for her to want to put out just a fun, pop album to help through a few more months of lockdowns and quarantines. My problem with this album mainly stems from how rough it starts off. There's also a lot of one-liners that don't really hit and a lot of songs with lyrics that are either half baked or just plain dumb. I guess the easiest way to wrap this up is by saying, is it enjoyable? Yes. Is it fun? Of course! But is it anything we've come to expect from Ari over these past few years? No, not really, but it's never gonna be a boring listen.
I would rate
By Ariana Grande