Oh, Ariana. It was only six months ago when I was sitting down to write down the album review for “Sweetener” and I’m already back.
When she announced her fifth album to come out so soon after her last -- and amidst so much personal drama in her life -- I was extremely excited but a bit concerned. The album, which clocks in at 12 songs, was even said to be penned in only 2 weeks -- after all, how can even the great Ariana Grande produce a good album in so little time?
But after listening through the album multiple times, I can honestly say that being wrong has never sounded so good. Not only is this album well balanced with her new and trademark Grande sound, but it also flows extremely well and doesn’t have any obvious weak spots. It has already been labeled as an “unskippable” album -- as in, no song is worth skipping.
Grande has said that this album is focused on “a super sad chapter” of her life -- and it shows. While this album is absolutely full of bops, most of it definitely falls into the “emotional pop” genre. “thank u, next,” “imagine” and “7 rings” were all released prior to the album drop but these tracks are in no way the best that this album has to offer.
The album opens with an early release track “imagine,” which still remains one of my favorites. Here, Grande is “imagining” a world with her lover and thinking about all the things she wants to do with them. A romance is painted here so easily with such small details -- getting pad thai and falling asleep on her lover is what Grande is fantasizing about, but it remains impossible and she can only “imagine.”
The second track “Needy” is as insecure as Grande has gotten, but the pop sound completely betrays that emotion. Unless you’re listening carefully to all the lyrics, you might miss how much Grande is beating herself up as she sings, “Sorry if I’m up and down a lot / Sorry that I think I’m not enough / And sorry if I say sorry way too much / You can go ahead and call me selfish / But after all this damage I can’t help it.” She continues to list her flaws with her trademark confidence while the background harmonies work to really fill out this song and add a beautiful sound altogether.
“ghostin” is by far my favorite song -- it’s emotionally raw lyrics and background track come together to form an absolutely haunting track that I can’t stop listening to. When Grande sings about her relationship, the lyrics seem to contradict each other at times such as with the refrain, “We’ll get through this / we’ll get past this / I’m a girl with / a whole lot of baggage” while she also goes on about how “Though I wish he were here instead / Don’t want that living in your head / He just comes to visit me when I’m dreaming / Every now and then.”
This sound so obviously strays from the other pop and beat-heavy tracks as Grande instead chose a low sound with a cello highlighting the background. Her voice and lyrics here are at the forefront. This song is so raw and honest; it’s an apology to this person she couldn’t love all the way, and it’s the most real I’ve ever heard Grande get.
This track also features a sample of Mac Miller’s song “2009” around minute 1:50. Considering Miller and Grande dated for two years before breaking up in 2018 and Miller’s later accidental overdose death, Grande seems to be directly referencing her ex-boyfriend here. This adds a whole other layer to the song and only makes it more emotional.
“NASA” is one of the more fun songs on the album, along with “break up with your girlfriend, im bored.” Both have high beats and fun lyrics, but also streaks of noncommitment. Grande is just looking for some fun here, nothing serious at all, which makes for seriously fun music.
I could go on more about each of the tracks but honestly, the only way you can love them as much as I do is by giving the album a listen. I’ll be having all these songs “in my head” in the meantime.
The views expressed are those of the writer and not necessarily those of The Torch.