Somethin’ ’bout you makes me feel like a dangerous woman
With a voice as huge as its owner is petite, Ariana Grande steers her way through Dangerous Woman like the dominant radio-ruler she has proven to be in the little more than three years since her major label debut. The hits have come in abundance from the former Nickelodeon starlet throughout that period, and there is no reason to suspect that her latest record will break that trend in any way.
Watch: “Dangerous Woman” – Ariana Grande
To begin with, the ultra-infectious ode to girl power that serves as this record’s title track has already proven to be an airplay magnet since its release in mid-March, thanks in no small part to its absolutely enormous hook that no lesser vocalist could have had the nerve to attempt (trivia time: “Dangerous Woman” has now made Ariana the first artist in the history of the Billboard charts to debut in the top 10 with the lead singles of each of her first three albums). “Into You,” in which Ariana implores her male admirers to cut to the chase (“a little less conversation and a little more ‘touch-my-body’,” she sings) is one of the most exciting entries of the singer’s whole catalogue, and should be ready to roll now that it is out as the album’s second single.
I’m so into you, I can barely breathe
And all I wanna do is to fall in deep
But close ain’t close enough ’til we cross the line, baby
So name a game to play, and I’ll roll the dice, hey
– “Into You“
Elsewhere, Ariana proves her Mariah Carey-like knack for making space for leading hip-hop stars in her pop music. She teams up again with her “Bang Bang” collaborator Nicki Minaj, who brings some luscious Caribbean flavoring to “Side to Side.” Future also delivers some rapid-fire verse-spitting on “Everyday” and also makes a chant-along chorus out of uttering the song’s title repeatedly. Dangerous Woman also benefits from impressively crisp production: From the screeching guitars on the title track to the 90’s dance-pop and R&B vibes on later songs, the music on this record is always a pleasure to listen to.
Like Grande’s previous albums, Dangerous Woman shifts between more upbeat and slower-paced songs, with generally good but slightly inconsistent results. While the aforementioned songs, as well as funky numbers like “Greedy” and “Bad Decisions,” are louder and more energetic, the album includes a number of mellower moments. Ariana’s voice sparkles on the gentle album opener, “Moonlight,” and “Leave Me Lonely” makes for a surprisingly effective duet with Macy Gray, whose signature raspy vocals complement the song’s theme of isolation and romantic reject.
On the other hand, “Let Me Love You” feels somewhat lethargic, in spite of some clever wordplay from guest Lil Wayne, and a few of the tracks in the album’s second half tend to veer on the too-slow side at times. Sequencing is not always Ariana’s strong suit, and rearranging the track listing on this record may have improved its overall flow.
Okay, Ariana, my lil mama, goodbye to the good girl
My ex tripping, it’s no Biggie, I 2Pac shook her
I’m laid up with my new thing
She lay her head on my new chain
Then the mood change
My name change from Lil Wayne to Ooh Wayne
– “Let Me Love You” (Lil Wayne excerpt)
Watch: “Let Me Love You” – Ariana Grande ft. Lil Wayne
Nonetheless, one major impression that fans can make of Dangerous Woman is that the singer behind this new batch of tracks is here to stay. Fresh off her inclusion on the TIME 100 list, that is certainly no surprise. But now that Ariana Grande has emerged from children’s television and produced her third straight LP that demonstrates clear artistic growth and building maturity — all by the age of 23, no less — her reign as a pop diva appears certain to endure. It has been a thrill to watch Ariana evolve as a singer over these past few years, all while forming some exceptional creative partnerships and experimenting with plenty of diverse musical styles. Hearing that process carry on full-steam-ahead on Dangerous Woman is what ultimately makes this a most satisfying listen.
“Baby, you got lucky, ‘cause you rockin’ with the best,” she tells us on Dangerous Woman. If by “the best,” Ariana Grande means the current pop star with the strongest voice, most advanced tastes in production, and firmest grasp on the themes of lust and vulnerability, than that seems like a boast well worth backing.