Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Album Review: 'Dangerous Woman' by Ariana Grande

>> Ariana Grande's 2014 release, My Everything, may have hit a snag with a hodgepodge of influences that were on the album. There were the hit songs like "Bang Bang", "Problem", and "Break Free", but you figured that the now 22 year old singer had to make an album that embodied herself and let the trends fall into that structure. "Focus", which was slated to be the first single off Grande's newest album Dangerous Woman, would have followed a similar path of the previous album - a radio ready hit that would carry into the spring and summer. However, that was left off the initial track listing in favor of the title track to the album's benefit.

>> Dangerous Woman has many influences, but they are refined and retooled into a narrative that works. The 11 track album sounds like Grande utilizing her vocal talents and giving each song its own feel and touch, whether it be from harmonies or how she doubles her vocal tracks. "Moonlight" serves as a romantic opener that draws influence from the doo-wop era and kicks the album off with a classic feel. The title track was an interesting pick for the first single, given that its mid-tempo premise was different than the songs we were accustomed to hearing from Grande. You get a sultry, sexy song complete with a guitar solo that adds a new wrinkle into her repertoire. "Be Alright" is a feel good, house-infused track that includes some encouragement from Grande herself ("the hard times are golden cause they all lead to better days").

>> Throughout the whole album, there's a theme of love and how it makes you feel. It moves from the initial honeymoon feeling of euphoria to the dark places of heart break. Each of the song's narratives come from a genuine place as the emotions may go up and down; so does the tempo. "Leave Me Lonely" which also adds some vocals from Macy Gray would be considered the quintessential ballad of the album. "Thinking Bout You" is an interesting way to end the album as a whole. As the top half is abundant in jovial feelings about love, this album ends on the note of honest longing after someone's heart as been broken. It would have been too safe to give a happy ending, but instead, it shows a real push in Grande's maturity as an artist.

>> Super-producer Max Martin adds diversity within the tracks he produces, but not at the expense of the personality of Grande. There are plenty of hits waiting for your radio such as the synth-infused "Into You" or the reggae-tinged "Side To Side" featuring Nicki Minaj. Dangerous Woman will take you down many roads, but the direction actually feels like one that leads somewhere. There is plenty to dive into, dance to - hell, maybe even cry to. With that, you don't get lost in the shuffle which makes for a very satisfying listen. 

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