Songwriting: The lyrical quality is "bare minimum" passable. Two songs that seem like a little more elbow grease was put into them are "The Light is Coming" and "Get Well Soon." Grande has the most credits, being a co-writer on 9/15 tracks. Other scribes include Pharrell Williams, Ilya and Savan Kotecha. The latter two have worked with Grande previously.
Production: Pharrell Williams was the lead producer. He well-merges Grande's past excursions with EDM and pop-R&B, but his offerings are more mechanical than musical. The rhythms are monotonic, similar to his work on Justin Timberlake's Man of the Woods (released earlier this year). Some of the other producers are Ilya, Max Martin and Tommy Brown, all of which have collaborated with Grande before.
Vocals: Grande is ethereal as always, but she struggles to sing with personality, enthusiasm or emotion. This could because she: A) is not connecting to the material B) doesn't have substantial creative control, and/or C) hasn't formed an artistic identity/vision yet. I'm leaning towards B & C because there's a discrepancy between her background/who she claims as influences, and the music she puts out. Further, her brand/project rollout has been rapid and bipolar. This is her fourth album in five years. Her image has gone from "sweet sixteen party princess" to "sex-kitten in a sweet sixteen party dress" almost overnight. Her albums never have a cohesive structure, sound or theme. The only constant is that the material is far from timeless and doesn't do her voice justice.
Justin Timberlake: Man of the Woods Review
Past Ariana Grande Reviews
**--"Honeymoon Avenue" is my top favorite song of hers, and that's why I used it in the video's intro.