ALBUM REVIEW: ‘thank u, next’ – Ariana Grande

Thank_U,_Next_album_coverAriana Grande is at an odd point. In the middle of her biggest era of her career thus, less than six months out from her last album release and at the very peak of the industry. Many woman have occupied that spot before her and it’s safe to assume many will after her. However, what goes up must come down. What was once endearing becomes annoying, what was once incredible becomes boring, and so the cycle continues. It will be. An interesting moment to see if, how and when Grande falls. However, with the release of thank u, next, it’s safe to say it won’t be her music that brings about her downfall.

Despite the pressure of all eyes being on her, Grande safely pulls off what could well be her defining album. Her fifth studio album thus far, thank u, next builds on her previous releases, taking the good from her hit and miss Sweetener and ramping up the experimentation. The first thing you notice on thank u, next is the cohesion. Thank u, next is wonderfully diverse yet cohesive unlike the homogeneous-ness of Sweetener that bordered on cannibalism. Here, Grande flicks between genuine ballads, back to fiery trap numbers and even throws it back to her Broadway roots. The album never feels clunky, even in its more filler-esque moments, of which there are a few. ‘ break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored’ is not the most endearing moment of Grande’s discography, instead coming off as bit of a nasty attempt to recapture the drama of lead single ‘thank u, next’. ‘make up’ isn’t anything particularly exciting and sounds a bit like a reject from the first half of Sweetener, while ‘bad idea’ is an ok track with no real purpose. The three tracks are quite out of place given the rest of the record, which has a very distinct, and very purposeful voice.  ‘imagine’ is a gorgeous opener that soars into the rafters before bringing us back down to earth and transitioning into the equally beautiful ‘needy’. Grande’s songwriting style is even more clear on the ballads here, as she refuses to switch away from the more informal writing that is typical of the more banger-trap moments. thank u, next’s superior ballad is appropriately haunting ‘ghostin’, which really showcases the emotion in Grande’s vocal, as well as skill of Max Martin and his team. Martin is also all over another album highlight ‘bloodline’, which is fierce, pop-reggaeton banger that offers a moment of pure fun in the album’s track-list. The album’s two singles, title track ‘thank u, next’ and ‘7 rings’ are easily the most commercial offerings here, with the former being arguably the easily marketed tracks ever, and the latter just being a straight up banger. ‘7 rings’ is probably the most out of place track, with its Sound of Music sample and complete display of richness in an otherwise quite emotional album, but the brilliance of the track makes it easy to overlook.

Overall, thank u, next seems as though it’s supposed to be Grande equivalent of Beyoncé’s Lemonade, but given that Grande has far less to say, thank u, next is ultimately more comparable to Rihanna’s Anti. Like Anti, thank u, next isn’t a perfect album, nor is it the industry changer that Lemonade was, however, it marks an important shift in Grande’s career. Here, she seems more in control, more sure of herself, of what she wants to sound like more so than what she needs to sound like. thank u, next probably won’t alter the world as we know it, but it certainly will alter Grande’s world and it’s truly a sight to behold.

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Alternatively Pop’s Top 20 Tracks of 2018

As the dawn of a new year begins, the world takes a moment to reflect on the year gone by. Here at Alternatively Pop, we take that as our chance to reflect on the music released this year. Without further ado, here are Alternatively Pop’s Top 20 Tracks of 2018.

1. Pynk – Janelle Monaé

Janelle Monaé failed to release a track that was anything less than stellar this year, but ‘Pynk’ was by far and away the greatest. If you’re looking for a cry for unity among beings, an immaculate exposé of the construction that is gender and a beautiful ode to femininity, ‘Pynk’ is the song for you. It’s damn catchy as well.

2. God is a Woman – Ariana Grande

Another artist who had an incredible 2018, Grande had some great tracks and some less than so, but ‘God is a Woman’ lived up to its title. A ballsy female anthem that holds no punches, ‘God is a Woman couldn’t have been more poignant in a year where women found their voice. ‘God is a Woman’ also has one of the greatest hooks of the year, and the gospel influence at the song’s climax is arguably the year’s most goosebump worthy moment, leaving you believing that God truly is a Woman.

3. You Say – Lauren Daigle 

From a more risqué portrayal of God to a more traditional Christian offering, Daigle’s ‘You Say’ is a gorgeous ballad that recognizes the comfort, hope, and self-belief that religion and God can provide someone. A straight-up piano ballad thy focuses the ear on Daigle’s vocals and lyrics, ‘You Say’ is a simple yet stunning track in a year full of complexity and boundary-pushing.

4. Alfie’s Song (Not So Typical Love Song) – The Bleachers

A not so typical love song written by a not so typical pairing for a not so typical movie, ‘Alfie’s Song’ is the perfect soundtrack for 2018’s ‘Love, Simon’. Written by Jack Antonoff with frequent hit-maker Isley Juber and resident heartthrob Harry Styles, ‘Alfie’s Song’ is pure feel-good movie magic that is the perfect companion to a rom-com.

5. Not So Bad in L.A. – Allie X

Allie X has been consistently blasting out pop bangers over the past few years, but ‘Not So Bad in LA’ is easily one of her best so far. A searing satirical take on the city of angels delivered in a lazy, disinterested vocal with a touch of quirky thrown in, this is one for the ages.

6. Curious – Hayley Kiyoko

As representation takes hold of entertainment, LGBT artists have begun to rise to prominence. One of “20GayTeens” main breakthroughs was Hayley Kiyoko. Her debut album’s lead single, ‘Curious’, is one of the reasons of why. The nonchalant way that the track doesn’t make a big deal of how it varies from the usual heterosexual break up bop is what sets it apart, but that infectious hook sure helps.

7. Sue Me – Sabrina Carpenter


It’s amazing how far a catchy hook will get you and ‘Sue Me’ is a perfect example of how a brilliant hook can elevate a track even further than where it already was. The sassy vocal of Carpenter perfectly matches the unbothered attitude this track adopts. From its screw you lyrics to perfect synth production, ‘Sue Me’ should have been a surefire hit.

8. Sanctify – Years & Years

Years & Years ‘Sanctify’ is one of those tracks that kind of seeps into your skin until one day you wake up and realise just how well the song is constructed. From those dark, skittish drums to the equally haunting vocal of frontman Olly Alexander to the clever wordplay of the lyrics, ‘Sanctify’ is an immaculate conception.

9. Space Cowboy – Kacey Musgraves

Speaking of clever wordplay, Kacey Musgraves’ ‘Space Cowboy’ dives right into that arena. One of country’s more experimental artists, ‘Space Cowboy’ perfectly showcases Musgraves’ ability to toe the line between classic country ballad and more pop-influenced moments, as she tinges the track with a little something more than just southern charm that elevates the track beyond being just another acoustic guitar moment that gets lost.

10. Moment – Blanche

Blanche is one of the most fascinating artists to ever come out of the Eurovision. All of her 2018 droplets could have made this list, but it’s ‘Moment’ that truly capitalises on what Blanche did on last year’s ‘City Lights’ and raises the level. Here, Blanche goes from sheer potential to full-blown pop star, with her emotive vocal adding dimension to the sensual clap-along beat of ‘Moment’.

11. Bloom – Troye Sivan

Troye Sivan is one of the finest pop artists to come out of this decade, and ‘Bloom’ is the perfect example of how he has matured since his debut. The tongue in cheek lyrics laced over the sweet as sugar synth is the perfect encapsulation of sexual liberation and Sivan’s own quirky brand. Also, it’s the use of metaphor is about as good as it gets, so that earns it points as well.

12. Venice Bitch – Lana Del Rey

Despite rarely varying her sound too much, Lana Del Rey somehow always makes it sound fresh and new. On ‘Venice Bitch’, Del Rey goes back to basics, singing lightly about her sugar baby antics while backed by an acoustic guitar. Oddly the track is nine minutes as Del Rey tacks on some odd psychedelic instrumental at the end that somehow makes the track even more endearing.

13. Party For One – Carly Rae Jepsen

One hit Wonder turned cult favourite Carly Rae Jepsen returned this year following her critical darling of an album, E•MO•TION, and she delivered. Although similar to much of her previous material, ‘Party For One’ is an anthem of self-love (of the very literal variety). The sexual innuendo here is half the fun but the bouncing beat is hard to ignore and when you put them together, you have another banger from Jepsen.

14. God in Jeans – Ryan Beatty

Although not technically a single, this was one of those tracks I just couldn’t ignore. A weird hybrid between rock, country, and R&B, ‘God In Jeans’ takes on the sexes up religion claiming that “God is real and he was sleeping in my bed last night”. The track is one of those perfect blends of genre that exists on a whole level of its own.

15. Youngblood – 5 Seconds of Summer

After a tumultuous few years, 5 Seconds of Summer blasted back to flying form in 2018, and ‘Youngblood’ was the anthem for that comeback. The track’s thumping guitar line gets the blood pumping like no other before letting the calm set in with the minimalistic approach to the track’s verses, resulting in a rollercoaster-esque banger.

16. Miracle – CHRVCHES

CHVRCHES ‘Miracle’ is another blend genres, here blurring the boundaries of big pop and generic EDM. The drop is arguably one of the most satisfying of the year, avoiding the pitfalls of unoriginality, instead of producing a drop that actually evokes a headband instead of a groan. The track’s boldness in its production, as well as the vocal performance, sets ‘Miracle’ apart in a field where it’s very difficult to even try and be original, never mind actually pull it off.

17. Crush – Tessa Violet

A triply little number, Tessa Violet’s ‘Crush’ just oozes summer. The track relies on very little production, with Violet sing-speaking over a sparking kick track until the song climaxes into a slightly less minimalist chorus. Violet also throws in some little effective samples on the bridge to add to the track’s cool edge.

18. 5 In The Morning – Charli XCX

Pop’s resident party girl, Charli XCX released some clunkers in 2018 but who cares when she also dropped her best bop since ‘Break The Rules’. A mix between the oddball production of Pop 2 and more classic pop hits, ‘5 In The Morning’ so arguably XCX’s most on brand track to date. She sings about how great her afterparty game is with her cocky vocal providing serious ‘fuck you’ vibes, ‘5 In The Morning’ is the perfect night out banger.

19. King’s Dead – Jay Rock with Kendrick Lamar, Future & James Blake

Infinitely better than the Black Panther soundtrack’s lead single ‘All The Stars’, ‘King’s Dead’ is a stuttering star turn that showcases the talents of Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, James Blake, and even the ever-mumbling Future. ‘King’s Dead’ does exactly what a great movie track does – standing on its own as a song while also elevating the motion picture it was created for.

20. Currency – Ivy Adara

As I said before, it’s incredible how far a catchy hook will get you. And that’s exactly why this track is here. Ivy Adara’s ‘Currency’ isn’t a slam dunk, in fact, the track isn’t all that great as a whole. But that hook is so good. Although the lyrics are a bit cliché, the production takes all the right cues and Adara gives off such cool girl vibes she somehow gets away with singing about such cliché topics such as dreams and rainbows to the point that she has you singing along with her.

Listen to all of our Top 20 Tracks of 2018 on our official Spotify Playlist here:
https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/ryanxoc/playlist/20DOE9hlGJKC1y7mOcd7cF

TRACK REVIEW: ‘Imagine’ – Ariana Grande

It’s hard to comprehend just how fast and how high Ariana Grande has risen as of late. Although she had success with her first three LPs, she had never quite had superstar status success. With the release of Sweetener, it’s singles, and the media frenzy that surrounded her relationship with Pete Davidson, it seemed she was beginning the transition from pop star to superstar at a relatively predictable pace. Then her relationship with Davidson broke apart and she put her foot on the pedal with the release of ‘Thank U, Next’. Now, with it’s follow-up ‘Imagine’, Grande proves she’s a superstar in other aspects.

Although not a sure-fire hit as the ever catchy and radio-friendly ‘Thank U, Next’, ‘Imagine’ is a magical showcase of Grande’s pure, raw, superstar level voice, as she lets her voice loose for once, belting high and whistling higher. Lyrically, ‘Imagine’ is beautifully mundane, conjuring up a plain and simple life where everything is fine. It is the simple version of Lorde’s ever-complex ‘The Louvre’, as both songs detail immaculate relationships that are practically art in their perfection. The production here is so sparse it’s barely there, but it’s magically constructed to provide a beautifully wistful for this melancholy ballad.

Overall, ‘Imagine’ is one of those rare gems of a pop song that is practically perfect in every. It feels simple, but epic at the same time. Its lyrics are relatable but never cliché. The production is innovative and original. But what truly elevates ‘Imagine’, is that it is a great vocalist letting her voice do what her voice is supposed to do, and that’s truly something you can’t imagine.

Listen to Ariana Grande’s ‘Imagine’ below and let us know what you think in the comments:

NEWS: Ariana Grande is the ultimate Mean Girl in ‘Thank U, Next’ music video

Ariana Grande has finally dropped the hotly anticipated music video for her latest single ‘Thank U, Next’.

The music video sees Grande reenact famous scenes from four classic romcoms including Mean Girls and Legally Blonde. The video also features huge cameos from stars such as Liz Gillies, Colleen Ballinger, Mean Girls star Johnathan Bennett and Legally Blonde star Jennifer Coolidge.

Since its release in early November, ‘Thank U, Next’ has dominated pop culture, reaching number one across the globes including the USA and the UK, becoming Grande’s first number one in the former and her first solo number in the latter. The song has also been a streaming force, breaking numerous records and propelling Grande into first place on Spotify’s monthly listeners, overtaking Selena Gomez.

Check out the Official Music Video for Ariana Grande’s ‘Thank U, Next’ below:

GRAMMYS 2019 Predictions: Beyoncé, Gambino and more eye the Big Four

As award season draws ever closer, it is once again that time to think about who will be a major player at music’s biggest night. Last year was one of complete unpredictability but with the expansion of the main four categories to 8 nominees instead of the usual five, it is slightly easier to take a stab at guessing who will be honoured at this year’s ceremony. Here are Alternatively Pop’s predictions for the 2019 Grammy Award Nominations:

ALBUM OF THE YEAR

the carters

Album of the Year is the biggest award of the night and arguably the least competitive this year. There seems to be no clear frontrunner with every contender being hampered by some aspect or another. The closest thing to a frontrunner is The Carters’ Everything is Love which received critical acclaim, although slightly less so than Beyoncé’s Lemonade and Jay-Z’s 4:44. The pair should be a lock for a nomination, with five nominations between them in just the last ten years. The biggest obstacle in the way of music’s reigning king and queen is that the album was not received well commercially, opening at number two behind 5 Seconds of Summer’s Youngblood, with 123,000 units of which only 70,000 were pure, marking a huge decline from both artists previous efforts. Given the Academy’s tendency to award big commercial hits such as Bruno Mars last year, Adele in 2017 and Taylor Swift in 2016, this could be one obstacle The Carter’s can’t clear. Speaking of Swift, she’s back in the ring for the first time since her Album of the Year win with 2014’s 1989. 2017’s reputation was a divisive piece of work but still garnered enough acclaim to grab a nomination. The album was a commercial powerhouse and it’s supporting tour was even more so and that should be enough to give her a lock and her fourth nomination, but given her recent win, don’t expect her to take home the award. Another commercial success is Drake’s Scorpion, which debuted to huge sales earlier this year and spawned three number one hits. Unfortunately for the rapper, the album received underwhelming reviews from critics. That combined with the recent report that 82% of the album’s total streams are made up of six of its twenty-five tracks, could be enough to deter a Drake win here, and in fact may be enough to knock him out of the top eight completely should the academy choose to go a more alternative route. Other contenders include Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy and Ariana Grande’s Sweetener, with both artists coming off huge years. However, with IOP being Cardi’s debut and Grande’s upcoming follow-up Thank U, Next threatening to overshadow Sweetener, I can’t see either of them walking home with the award. Grammy favourite Sam Smith could be in with a chance with The Thrill of It All getting good reviews and decent commercial success, but would be an underwhelming winner given the inoffensive nature of the record and with neither huge sales or huge critical support to propel him to the front of the pack, he’s another nomination with no win. After a controversially male year last year, the Grammys will be looking to include a more female presence this year, which could be wonderful news for critical darlings Kacey Musgraves and Janelle Monae. Musgraves Golden Hour is her most critically adored album of her career and would also be a winner that would be supported by the industry and fans alike. Although not a huge commercial success, Musgraves did take home Album of the Year at the CMA’s, indicating strong industry support. Monae’s Dirty Computer has also been critically adored and given her veteran status in the industry and the comparisons to her late mentor Prince, Dirty Computer could be a dark horse in this race yet. Alongside the more traditional albums, soundtracks had a big year. The Greatest Showman was a runaway hit and should be a huge contender in the Motion Picture categories, while Black Panther offers the Academy to honour one of the most commercially and culturally significant movies in history.

Final Predictions: Everything is Love, reputation, Invasion of Privacy, Golden Hour, Scorpion, The Thrill of it All, Dirty Computer, Black Panther

 

RECORD OF THE YEAR

gambino

Unlike Album of the Year, Record of the Year has a clear frontrunner. Childish Gambino’s ‘This is America’ is everything the academy could want. Massively successful and critically adored, it should be a slam-dunk. However, many would have said the same about Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Humble’ last year and he left without the award. If the Academy decides that ‘This is America’ is too politically charged for them to award, they could turn to equally popular efforts in Cardi B’s ‘I Like It’ and Drake’s ‘God’s Plan’ which provided each artist with huge hits this year. Neither have the critical support of ‘This Is America’ but neither were close to panned, being received similarly to last year’s winner ‘24k Magic’. Many are predicting that Maroon 5’s ‘Girl Like You’ could also be a contender for Cardi B, but given the unoriginality of that track, and the fact that there are other ways to award Cardi, I don’t see ‘Girl Like You’ giving the band it’s first main field nomination since their first and last with Best New Artist thirteen years ago. The Carters’ ‘Apesh*t’ should also be in with a shot of a nomination, but given its lack of commercial support and no major critical push, I would say nomination is all it will get. Beyoncé’s duet with Ed Sheeran on ‘Perfect’ could grab the pair a nod, but given the fact that Sheeran was completely shut out of the main field last year despite much buzz, I wouldn’t hold my breath. The pop field should produce a number of contenders – Ariana Grande’s ‘God is a Woman’ could be nominated, but given its slightly controversial nature, it probably won’t be enough for a win. Zedd’s ‘The Middle’ could be one that sneaks into that top eight with ease, along with Bebe Rexha’s ‘Meant to Be’ and Post Malone’s ‘Rockstar’. Finally, soundtracks could provide a number of potential nominees here as well. Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s ‘Shallow’ could be a dark horse here, particularly given that the pair will be running the song’s Oscar campaign simultaneously. The track was also released just as the eligibility period closed, so it’s fresh in the voter’s minds. Kendrick Lamar and SZA’s ‘All The Stars’ and Keala Settle’s ‘This is Me’ could also contend for those top eight spots.

Final Predictions: ‘This is America’, ‘I Like It’, ‘God’s Plan’,’Apesh*t’, ‘The Middle’, ‘All The Stars, ‘God is a Woman, ‘Meant To Be’

 

SONG OF THE YEAR

Delicate-Video

Song of the Year is an odd category this year. Like Album of the Year, there is no clear frontrunner but there are a number of tracks in contention for the award. Again ‘This Is America’, ‘Apesh*t, ‘The Middle’ and a variety of others from Record of the Year will contend here as well, but other tracks will most definitely break through. Breakout star Ella Mai could well be in the race with ‘Boo’d Up’ being a huge hit for her. While Record of the Year has favoured more R&B tracks in the past few years, Song of the Year has embraced other genres particularly pop. Maroon 5’s ‘Girls Like You’ could fare better here given its message and its mass appeal. Ariana Grande’s ‘No Tears Left To Cry’ could be a major player for a nomination, and even the award should the Academy decide that this is the year to anoint her. My only pause for concern is the mammoth success of her latest effort ‘Thank U, Next’, both commercially and critically, which could lead to the Academy regulating Grande to nominations or a win in the pop field, instead choosing to award her in the main field next year. Additionally, Grammy favourite Taylor Swift could be in the mix with ‘Delicate’. While she fell out of favour last year with the controversial ‘Look What You Made Me Do’, ‘Delicate’ has been critically acclaimed and was a big enough hit with the industry with massive radio play and holding strong on the hot 100 for 35 weeks. Although this isn’t the flashiest of entries, Swift has never won here despite being a three-time nominee in this category, and this could be the Academy’s chance to award one of this generation’s greatest songwriters. ‘This is Me’, ‘All The Stars’, and ‘Shallow’ could all be in with a shot here as well. Drake could also contend with ‘God’s Plan’ and even ‘Nice For What’. XXXTentacion could also be in with a chance at a posthumous nomination here with ‘SAD!’ and given his polarising career, it will be interesting to see if the Grammys are able to ignore him. Fringe contenders such as Kacey Musgraves (‘High Horse’), Sam Smith (‘Pray’), Demi Lovato (‘Sober’) and Dan + Shay (‘Tequila’) could also factor in if the Academy decides to snub some of the more heavy hitters.

Final Predictions: ‘This is America’, ‘No Tears Left To Cry’,’Boo’d Up’, ‘Nice For What’, ‘Delicate’, ‘The Middle’, ‘Shallow’, ‘Girls Like You’

 

BEST NEW ARTIST

Dua-Lipa-New-Rules

Best New Artist finds itself in the same situation as it always does. The rules are messy and poorly applied, leaving the top contenders out of the running after Cardi B, Post Malone and XXXTentacion were all deemed ineligible for the award. That leaves it as a two horse race between pop’s latest princess Dua Lipa and R&B breakout Ella Mai. Both have had monumental years, with a number of hits under each of their belts. Lipa would probably be my choice for the frontrunner but Mai is nipping at her heels. This award has often been the kiss of death for a number of artists, while a number of the world’s biggest stars have been nominated and not won in the past, so the pair may be wishing the other luck in the end. While Lipa and Mai are in a tight race for the award, there aren’t too many other locks for a nod. Juice Wrld could be their closest competition but I can’t see the Academy awarding him. There is often a country nominee and with eight nominees this year, a few will certainly be in contention. Luke Combs, Brett Young and Carly Pearce could all fill that slot or even take more than one spot. Troye Sivan, Hayley Kiyoko, Bebe Rexha, Marshmello and Billie Eilish will all be aiming to get into those pop slots, while niche artists H.E.R and Greta Van Fleet will also be hoping to garner genre bids.

Final Predictions: Dua Lipa, Ella Mai, Juice Wrld, Luke Combs, Troye Sivan, Great Van Fleet, Carly Pearce, Bebe Rexha

Nominations for the 61st Annual GRAMMY Awards will be announced in all 84 categories on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018.

ALBUM REVIEW: ‘Sweetener’ – Ariana Grande

It isn’t often that you can say that 40 seconds of complete and utter silence is the most stunning and emotion filled moment on an album. However, this is the case with Ariana Grande’s latest release, Sweetener. Her fourth full length release (and first since the tragic bombing that claimed the lives of 22 of her fans) and is a sumptuous and intoxicating affair that strikes a near-perfect home run, if it weren’t for the few stumbles along the way.

Sweetener is best described as a love letter. Whether it be to her fiancé, her fans or even herself, Grande’s latest record is nowhere near short on love. Tracks like the dreamy ‘R.E.M’, the catchy ‘Everytime’ and the unsubtle interlude ‘Pete Davidson’ declare her undying love. Second single ‘God is a Woman’ is a seductive and defiant pop song celebrating the sexual liberation of womankind, in particular Grande herself as she brazenly declares “when all is said and done/ you’ll believe God is a Woman”. The same celebration of self is explored on ‘successful’, which doesn’t exactly live up to its title. With messy production, mediocre at best lyricism and nothing overly special happening vocally, ‘successful’ would seem like the most basic filler-track if it wasn’t for its bold and offensively cocky concept. While ‘successful’ isn’t the only filler track, Sweetener does a good job and keeping its filler to a bare minimum, as well as keeping the cuts well spread out across the 15 strong track list, with only Blazed’ featuring Pharell and ‘Borderline’ featuring Missy Elliot falling through the cracks. Both tracks suffer from similar issues, with unnecessary features, weird production that sticks out on the otherwise immaculately cohesive unit and poorly constructed hooks that leave a lot to be desired considering the brilliance of the rest of the record. Luckily for Grande, she was smart enough to place them throughout the album. ‘Blazed’ is followed by arguably the most divisive pop song of the year so far, ‘The Light is Coming’. The fourth collaboration between Grande and Minaj is a quirky, sparse and experimental track that has a lot of issues (lyrics and length), but is saved by its undeniable hook that sticks in your head and Minaj’s unrelenting verse.

The album’s second half is home to more straight forward pop forward fare such as ‘breathin”, which is one of the stronger tracks lyrically on the album that would have been a great summer single, and the absolutely stunningly raw one-two punch that is the combination of ‘Better Off’ and ‘Goodnight n Go’, which both fabulously display how deep her love for her soon to be husband is. ‘Better Off’ explores the insecurities that she has in her relationships, while ‘Goodnight n Go’, lays her feelings bare as she coos about how undeniable their connection is. The latter track, which samples the Imogen Heap track of the same name, is truly a marvel, as Grande’s love is infectious as it seeps through every part – from the vocals to the production.

As for her fans, Grande structures the entire album around them. ‘Raindrops’ is a gut-wrenching and fleeting opener that is gone as fast as it came that provides short but beautiful ode to the fans who Grande lost a little over a year ago. Grande closes the album on ‘Get Well Soon’. The album’s longest track, Grande continues the album’s overall vibe and instead of wallowing, she leaves the record on an uplifting note. ‘Get Well Soon’ sees Grande relate to those suffering, and encouraging them to talk about their feelings, declaring that even at the top of the world there are ups and downs. The track ends with a final 40 seconds of pure, uninterrupted silence, bringing the closer to a final running time of 5:22, a subtle but beautiful final reminder of those whose lives were lost.

This final tribute perfectly encompasses Sweetener. The album is an exquisite reminder that life goes on and while you may be preoccupied with what’s going on those you have lost will always be there. Grande’s Sweetener captures her life right now – engulfed in love and relationship. Sweetener is telling us that Grande is moving on, but will act as a constant reminder that she will never forget.

TRACK REVIEW: ‘Bed’ – Nicki Minaj (ft. Ariana Grande)

dfa-mbzvaaaji3lSelf-proclaimed queen of rap Nicki Minaj is not one to be outdone. As she readies herself for her first LP release in four years, she seems to be making up for lost time. After the releases of uninspired lead singles ‘Chun-Li’ and ‘Barbie Tingz’ (which has reportedly been scrapped from the final cut of Minaj’s upcoming studio album, Queen) and the arrival of the equally mediocre ‘Rich Sex’ with Lil Wayne, it seemed that the Queen of Rap had lost her touch. Her latest, ‘Bed’ makes up for it in spades.

Her third collaboration with pop superstar Ariana Grande (who is releasing her own collaboration with Minaj ‘The Light Is Coming’ next week), ‘Bed’ sees Minaj leave the trap production that has become tired and overused in the current rap/hip-hop renaissance and re-adopt the fabulous pop-esque production that made her stand out on her debut efforts.

‘Bed’ is a sexy and sultry summer banger that showcases both artists best strengths. Grande plays up her breathy vocals to add even more of a sultry effect that contrasts fabulously with Minaj’s overt and unrelenting sexuality that is somehow turned up to an eleven on the track. The cut is a major return to form for Minaj and slight sign of hope that her upcoming LP will truly warrant its hefty title.

Nicki Minaj’s Queen will be released on August 10th.