Sunday, May 22, 2016

ALBUM REVIEW: Dangerous Woman (Ariana Grande)

From the first time I heard Ariana Grande’s collaboration with Iggy Azalea, ‘Problem’ in 2014, which, along with the film BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOUR, epitomised my feelings towards my a certain someone (#cryptic), I have been staunchly #TeamAri. The Italian-American songstress is great to look at, has fantastic vocal range, and effortlessly exudes sex appeal (the élan with which she peers up from her white Lolita sunglasses in the 'Bang Bang' music video is a kind of sultry swagger I can but only dream of). So it was with great excitement that I waited for Dangerous Woman, her third studio album, with. So much so, in fact, that I’m currently writing a female version of TRAINING DAY, and, have assigned it ‘Dangerous Woman’ as the film’s working title.

The album’s eponymous lead single is terrifically catchy. ‘Something about you, makes me wanna do things that I shouldn’t’, Ariana croons, whilst in the music video, she slinks around provocatively in lingerie, showing that she is well and truly through with the good girl image which she initially sported when she first became famous. If Yours Truly was clean!Ari, My Everything, with songs such as 'Love Me Harder' and 'Hands On Me' were suggestive-but-PG-13!Ari, then Dangerous Woman is full-on femme fatale, R-rated!Ari. And she’s not here to half-step. She’s owning it.

‘Side to Side’, Ariana’s third collaboration with Nicki Minaj, is probably their weakest so far, but it says a lot about the collective quality of the music these two women make together that it is still a more than solid 8/10 track. I loved the reggae vibe of the song, as well as the employment of Nicki’s verbal fireworks for the rapping, but I thought the actual lyrical quality of the rap was a bit weak, with practically every other line being an allusion to one of Nicki’s previous hits. By contrast, the employment of Macy Gray in ‘Leave Me Lonely’, one of the few melancholic songs on the album, works a treat, with Gray’s gravelly voice suiting the sombre words she’s singing perfectly.

As with her preceding two albums, the tracks I tend to enjoy more are the upbeat, funky ones. ‘Greedy’ tells the story of a woman’s high appetite for a certain something (spoiler alert: it’s not for food), and with electro-pop beats, a brass band, and best of all, her voice hitting stratospherically high notes, makes for a great musical party. ‘Everyday’ is very similarly thematically to ‘Greedy’ but the beats are more RnB-infused, demonstrating Grande’s musical versatility, and how her voice is so strong it crosses genres. The album’s only major misstep is ‘Sometimes’, a slow-moving guitar-led track which sounds like a lazy B-side that is just at odds with the musical flavour with the rest of the album.

The standout track of Dangerous Woman, for me, is ‘Let Me Love You’, an unashamedly saucy song in which Ariana Grande gets to put her vocals to their breathy best. (Some people aren’t such a big fan of the way she sounds out of breath when delivering her lyrics, but I really dig it). Lil Wayne’s rap on it is a good foil to her verses, and his bluntness in ‘I said girl you need a hot boy / she said you need to stop fucking with them thots boy’ evokes memories of his featuring credit on Kelly Rowland's 'Motivation', another brazen foray into smut where his rhyming was both irreverent and intelligent. Furthermore, the cavalier little nod to Beyonce’s ‘Irreplaceable’ when Grande asserts ‘I know they'll be coming from the right and the left, left, leftshows she KNOWS she’s the ish. Arrogance among popstars is obviously a double-edged sword; you need to acknowledge the fact that you’re HBIC, but at the same time not become insufferable. Egotism is justified if it's merited. Within that lyric, we have the album in a microcosm: a woman discovering, nay, asserting her allure. In Ariana Grande’s case, it’s well-deserved.

Some music fans are perturbed that Ariana Grande, who despite being 22 old, still looks like a little kid, being so overtly sexual on Dangerous Woman. But, in her defence, she’s already had her squeaky clean period, and she’s over that. She gave us a hint of her more carnal instincts when she told us ‘she might have let you hold her hand at school, but Imma show you how to graduate’ and other such double entendres on her second album, but Queen Ari isn’t here for innuendo any more. To paraphrase Dennis Hopper in BLUE VELVET, "Ari wants to fuck". This pretty doe-eyed girl is blossoming into a dangerous woman. And her music has never sounded better as a result.

Grade: A

No comments: