Ariana Grande is a petite popstar with big shoes to fill. Her 2013 debut album, Yours Truly, propelled her stardom to new heights with singles such as “The Way” and “Baby I”. With the following year’s release of My Everything, Ariana had established her place in the upper echelon of pop songstresses, and songs like the Iggy Azalea featured “Problem”, the Zedd collab “Break Free”, and the girl-power song “Bang Bang” with Jessie J and Nicki Minaj enjoyed widespread success.
Dangerous Woman is Grande’s latest release, and just as Ariana has grown up in the spotlight, Dangerous Woman finds Grande’s talents more honed and refined, and she tackles more mature subject matter than before. The album was originally titled Moonlight, and the violin-led track opens Dangerous Woman. Ariana finds herself wooed by a lover that reminds her of Elvis and James Dean. He’s become her “Moonlight”, and the melodic lyrics of the track along with its gentle and slow pace make it a pleasure to listen to and sway back and forth.
The lead single and titular track, “Dangerous Woman” encapsulates the mood and goal of Ariana’s latest body of work. A more mature, sultry Ariana takes control, and the Max Martin produced track is sure to be dominating the radio for months to come. The track’s accompanying visual is simple and effectively so. While Ariana enjoys and shines making pop music, her voice is wonderfully suited for more R&B sounding tracks like “Dangerous Woman”.
Keeping things upbeat, “Be Alright” ensures listeners that no matter what life throws your way, things will work out for the best. Borderline repetitious at times, “Be Alright” is neither as catchy nor uplifting and inspiring as songs like “Rise” or “Revival” off Selena Gomez’s Revival.
Next up is “Into You”, another Max Martin produced track, This track is divine, and Grande makes the perfect temptress. “A little bit scandalous, but baby don’t let them see it. A little less conversation, and a little more touch my body.” “Into You” is a perfect single choice, and it even rivals “Dangerous Woman” on its ability to be a catchy, seductive and utterly and unashamedly pop delight.
Nicki Minaj lends her fiery flavor to “Side to Side”. Like on “Bang Bang”, Grande and Minaj sound wonderful together; Ariana’s in full on reggae-mode going after a bad boy, despite what her friends say. She manages to keep up with and not be outshined by Minaj, whose third verse feels right at home on the track, unlike Lil Wayne’s on “Into You”. Let’s be real though – anyone listening to Dangerous Woman knew that a song featuring Ariana and Nicki would be fire, and it does not disappoint.
“Let Me Love You” slows the pace and finds a heartbroken Ariana newly single and ready to love again. “I ain’t tryna rush you, but goddamn, I’m a mess,” Ariana sings, and this line manages to describe “Let Me Love You” perfectly. The song starts out strong with a well developed first verse, but ultimately falls apart with a rushed second verse before spiraling out of control with an unnecessary Lil Wayne feature. As is often the case with rappers added to pop diva’s tracks, Lil Wayne’s addition is a discord to the song, and does nothing to elevate the track to new heights.
Despite “Into You” being a misstep, Dangerous Woman quickly rights itself with “Greedy”, a funky and soulful dance track that is a surefire standout. Tracks like “Greedy” and “Dangerous Woman”, “Into You” and “Side To Side” before it and later “Bad Decisions” show that Ariana benefits tremendously when Max Martin is in the reigns as producer. These are the album’s highlights, on another tier to tracks by other producers.
“Leave Me Lonely” features the legendary Macy Gray. Both Ariana and Gray hold their own on the track, despite it being nothing to write home about. Landing a stellar feature like Macy Gray should’ve resulted in one of the highlights of Dangerous Woman, but Macy Gray’s crooning is the clear highlight here, despite Grande’s superior vocal prowess. Sadly, though, “Leave Me Lonely” is only unique in the fact that it features Macy Gray on an Ariana Grande album and is otherwise just filler.
Ariana teams up with another rapper for “Everyday” featuring Future. Unlike the slow tempo “Let Me Love You”, this track is extremely sexual and sultry. Grande takes charge and lives up to her moniker as a Dangerous Woman on the track, and despite their vocal stylings being night and day, the verse featuring Future is enjoyable. “Everyday” still doesn’t quite reach the heights of tracks like “Greedy” or “Into You”, but it’s not as bad as “Let Me Love You”.
Dangerous Woman comes to a close with “Thinking Bout You”, and Ariana is heartbroken once again, longing for an ex and replaying memories in her mind. She wishes he would come back, ending the album on a sad and downtrodden note. An unusual ending to an otherwise mostly happy album.
Ariana Grande has released another album featuring clear standout tracks that will no doubt be highlights of the year in pop music. Nonetheless, Dangerous Woman is still less than perfect, with songs either being wonderful contenders for singers or nothing more than soulless filler. Dangerous Woman is still worth a purchase for its Max Martin productions which are a superb addition to Grande’s discography. Looking at Ariana’s single choices and constant features, one can only hope that in the future she will be more confident in her ability to lead a song skillfully; Dangerous Woman shines when Ariana is on her own; she needs no star features to make great music.