April 12, 2016

Spinning Singles: Ariana Grande, “Dangerous Woman”

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Okay.  A lot of me really likes Ariana Grande’s music.  Well, her newer music.  You were probably listening to it Saturday night in the basement of (insert frat name here); “Problem,” “One Last Time,” “Bang Bang,” “Break Free.”  Yeah, the songs are contrived and sustained purely by endless repetitions of 2 eight-counts of whichever instrument is being showcased and the high-flying cascades that Grande pulls off with her voice, but they’ll get you to sing along, or dance, or both.  If you take yourself seriously, maybe don’t watch any of the videos — either they’re filled with camp or I’m just not understanding the artistic message she’s sending out — but there’s no danger in enjoying a little bubblegum now and then between your really profound “Indie Discover Relax Golden” playlist you’ve homegrown on Spotify.

In any case, Grande’s place in the musical world is something that piques my interest immensely.  Sure, her voice is numbingly poppy and dramatic in all of her most popular songs (I’ve heard a theory that she’s actually borne of Mariah Carey’s knee, which, to be honest, I could see), but every so often she rips out a vocal riff or creates a space in the music that makes you wonder if maybe she’d be better suited for another genre. A lot of the time that she produces these big songs with feed-the-masses lyrics and instrumentals that are REALLY EXCITED TO BE HERE and I just want… less.  I don’t want more, I want less.  It feels a lot like when you find yourself at a dinner where all the food is really great but wow your grandma just piled three layers of food on your plate and wouldn’t that be better if she let you take your time?

On the March 11 Grande released “Dangerous Woman.” No, it’s not breaking the borders of a single genre.  No, it’s not even trying to cover up how half of pop music is only sold because it either advertises an “all girls want to be like that, bad girls underneath” aesthetic (direct quote from this single) or a guy who can say “fuck bitches get money,” but look.  The recycled riff that starts out this single has a funked-out guitar and it just sounds… simple.  The instrumentals are happy to be there, and they don’t feel the need to tell you directly in front of your face that they feel that way.  Grande’s voice is still the entire foreground of the music, but it balances so much more naturally with an environment that allows her to showcase what she does best, which is stun with that pure sound she can pump out at just about any part of the scale.  And the real difference is that, listening to this song, you feel a rush hearing “something ’bout you makes me feel like a dangerous woman” with the escalation of the rhythm trailing behind her.  It’s a pretty simple message; she’s got a partner who’s got her feeling sexy, she’s empowered, she likes sleeping with him and she likes to like it all.  And it’s not hard to realize that that’s a pretty good feeling when you’re listening to it.  I don’t know if this is supposed to indicate a new era of Ariana, or even that she’s looking to diversify her sound a bit.  I do know, though, that this is the only single she’s released that I’ve wanted to play over, and over, and over again.

Jessie Weber is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]