#4 - Sweetener
Sweetener had a lot of issues that most people would not have expected right out of the gate. No Tears Left to Cry was a great single, but the real issues started to poke their way through with the promotional single The Light Is Coming with Nicki Minaj. It took a decent instrumental idea with the bizarre sample and then let it all go with its annoying whistle playing through the instrumental. The hook adds new elements that make it sound better, but it still has that whistle. After a while Ariana released God Is a Woman which is far better than The Light Is Coming. It sounds really really good on the hook too. But the verses are admittedly pretty boring. It's a decent song but not quite good. Breathin was released as a single in September and that song is pretty great. I'd agree fairly closely with Todd in the Shadows putting it as his #1 song of 2018.
Then the album launched. I was originally disappointed but it's grown on me. Just barely. I didn't and still don't like the album cover, but that's okay. The biggest issue was the music. Blazed was okay but had one primary issue- Pharrell. I don't like his beat, and I don't care for his voice with autotune. I can forgive the autotune but the instrumental just doesn't sound good. R.E.M. has some really annoying breathing running through the whole song, including parts where no other instruments are playing. Ari's singing is pretty good on the track. Successful sounds like a worse version of Popular Song off Yours Truly, and the last four or five tracks just kinda bore me; however it's not as bad as it seems because Pete Davidson isn't long enough to be a bother. The 3 great songs on this album are No Tears Left to Cry, Breathin, and Everytime. I'd highly recommend all three of those.
#3 - Yours Truly
This is the one I have the least to say in regards to quality. It's good. It's a good album. It doesn't stick out nearly as well as the other three do. Except for one track, which we'll get into later on. Honeymoon Avenue is a really great way to open Ariana's solo career (not counting Put Your Hearts Up). But if you listened to the radio around this time, you'd be more familiar with The Way as the introduction to Ariana's musical career. And that's okay too. I can't say that The Way is better or worse than Honeymoon Avenue, and I feel that Honeymoon Avenue is more creative overall, but they're both really good. Baby I, track 2, is probably my favorite song on the album overall. But all of the rest of the songs on the album sound like an inferior version of Baby I in some way or another. Not that they're bad, because they're good. It's just that they don't do enough different to distinguish it. The big exception here is Popular Song. Popular Song doesn't sound like other songs on the album. That's because it's a song from a Mika album that also ended up here. It sounds decent, but I don't think it deserves to be on the album because it sounds too far off from the rest of the album. It sticks out like a VHS tape put into the cheap cardstock packaging too quickly while the tab on the top is still in the way. Not a bad song, but it should've just stayed on the Mika album.
#2 - Dangerous Woman
Dangerous Woman is the very first Ariana Grande album I listened to all the way through. I heard it for the first time the weekend it came out and I loved it. A lot. It's pretty banging. It didn't really pique my interest at first, with Dangerous Woman being a good song and that's all there is to it, but I got really hyped when I remembered the amazing single One Last Time off of My Everything. The album dropped in May and it was (and still is) great. The US standard version was 15 tracks with an uncommon Target Deluxe Edition adding 2 more songs at the end. [Did I ever mention that Deluxe Edition albums are such a bad concept?] It starts off with a slower song, Moonlight. Then after Dangerous Woman we get to hear Be Alright, which is really great. The instrumental and the lyrics match perfectly. Into You is a pretty stellar pop song. It's good to the point where I watched a half-hour long dissection of the song on a segment called What Makes This Song Great?
I loved Side to Side when it dropped. Then I didn't love it anymore. And now I love it again. It's such a chill song that gets me hyped even though it's not too complex in terms of production. Greedy is stellar and is, to this day, my favorite song on the album. It has such a great sense of buildup that I can't help but get hyped over it. Touch It is also really great, and is filled with a lot of charm. Knew Better / Forever Boy is really good too, although I think I appreciate each half for different reasons. Thinking Bout You sounds like a perfect bookend to an album. And it is, unless you buy your music at Target for some reason.
So most of the songs on this album are really good. There are a few, however, that I don't care for as much. The first of these is Let Me Love You, which was released as a promo single about a month before the album dropped. I never really cared for Lil Wayne and this beat is just kinda messy. It sounds dark but it doesn't have any charm. Ari tried too hard. And that's what also applies to the second bad track, Everyday. From the first second this song is just kinda repulsive. The lyrics are overly edgy and the instrumental is overly loud. This is exactly what soccer moms hear when they catch word of Ariana Grande releasing her first explicit album and titling it "Dangerous Woman." I don't vibe with that.
Don't let those two songs turn you away from this great project. The quality and amount of absolutely great songs on Dangerous Woman definitely cover for the bad ones, of which there aren't even many. Go listen to Dangerous Woman: Target Exclusive Deluxe Edition now.
#1 - My Everything
My Everything has no bad songs on it. Not even a mediocre song. It's all bangers from start to finish. Ariana says she'd given you all she had and nothing less, and she really means it. The intro to My Everything is the best opening track to any Ariana Grande album, just taking into account that it's an opening track and not the replayability. It's short on purpose. The true opening is Problem, which is a bop. Problem is just a really good version of Focus. I don't like Focus, but Problem sure did seem to capture lightning in a bottle. It sounds very abrasive yet very saccharine at the same time in a very odd sort of way. Its greatest feat was making Iggy Azalea sound somewhat competent or, dare I say it, even a little bit cool. One Last Time is the most fun song on the album and a great single. Why Try was my favorite song on the album for a time. While I think One Last Time might be my favorite, Why Try is nonetheless really fun to sing along to. Break Free is a good Zedd song, which is a great surprise since the last good song Zedd made was the True Colors remix with Kesha back in spring of 2016. Be My Baby is a great pop song in general. Another fun one to sing to. It definitely deserves more recognition. When you get to track 8, you get Gambino! I love Childish Gambino. He's such a cool guy. He had released his album Because The Internet the previous year, and his verse on Break Your Heart Right Back reminds me most of Sweatpants. Love Me Harder was also my favorite for a while back in 2016 and 2017. The Weeknd's verse is the first Weeknd performance I really latched onto, and it stayed that way until In The Night was released as a single in 2016. If memory serves The Double Agent really likes this song and it's clear why. Hands On Me is very strange sounding at this point, but it definitely grows. It's super addictive. I heard it two or three times before that's all I wanted to hear for a while. I don't care for A$AP Ferg either but he sounds pretty good here. The album closes out with the more mellow My Everything, unless you get the TARGET DELUXE EDITION [ugh]. Then you get Bang Bang, which is an awesome collaboration with Jessie J and Nicki Minaj. I got sick of this song back in 2014 but it's definitely grown on me. It's just really fun. "It's me, Jessie, and Ari. If they test me, they sorry." The last 2 tracks are Only 1 and You Don't Know Me, both of which are really good. I can't really explain why. It just seems like something that anyone who is human can understand. It's aesthetic.
So long story short, My Everything is probably the best pop album of 2014, maybe the 2010s, maybe all time. Who knows. While it isn't particularly deep or emotionally driven, it has great ideas and great execution on every single one of its 12 or 15 tracks. If you see a copy of the Deluxe Edition My Everything for under 20 bucks, I would make sure to buy it ASAP. Or you can get the vinyl, but from what I understand it's pretty rare to find one of those. All in all, no matter which format you listen to My Everything on, it's a great album.
If you want to purchase any of the albums mentioned here, here are the links: