Music Matters: My Album of the Year, Dangerous Woman – Ariana Grande

By Ian Teoh, E23 Reporter

If you’re not a pophead, look away right now. Ariana Grande’s “Dangerous Woman” hit the stores May last year and is my pick for album of the year for 2016. When Ariana Grande comes to mind, one can expect big synths, big hooks and an even bigger voice. This album delivers spectacularly on all accounts.

It’s harder to put out 12 tracks of good pop than people give credit for, and with Max Martin’s help Grande pulled it off. The production is fantastic, and is unafraid of being loud while only overpowering the star attraction at a few unfortunate moments.

For the most part, the Swedish pop master is at his best, and keeps the songs fresh and ticking to their own beat with impeccable production. It almost goes without saying, but Grande continues to show why she is considered one of the premiere vocal talents of the generation. If you thought her eight note “boy” off “Side to Side” was impressive, wait until you hear her stretch a single syllable out to fourteen notes on “Bad Decisions” in an astonishing display of vocal control.

The album opens with a romantic bedside confessional, “Moonlight”, the original title track. The delicately layered saccharine track is almost a red herring and a sign of the difficult process with which the album was conceived. Make no mistake, this album of upbeat dance-y songs was slaved over meticulously and refined to infectious perfection. “Focus”, released in late 2015 and intended to be the lead single, does not even make the album, only sneaking in as the last track in the Japanese edition.

Pop is the word, but Grande’s team show no reluctance in borrowing as widely as they can while still producing chart-topping hits with “Into You” being the quintessential big club dance song of the 2010s, “Side to Side”, a Caribbean-influenced jam and “Dangerous Woman”’s R&B and blues elements that culminates in a thrilling electric guitar interlude.

All three predictably hit the top ten of the Billboard top 100 as singles throughout the course of 2016. Fourth single “Everyday (Ft. Future)” released on the 10th of this month is a surprising choice, with bubblegum influenced “Bad Decisions”, the house of “Be Alright” and the Weekndesque “Let me Love you (Ft. Lil Wayne)” all potentially stronger candidates for radio.

“Greedy” is the standout track on the album, with Grande at her playful and unrestrained best. The track blends the catchiest elements of 2000s pop with a disco-funk beat. Girly background vocals compete with big band trumpet riffs. The song slows down misleadingly in an engaging vocal interlude before topping it off with an audacious key change straight out of the 90s.

Supported by the full range of Grande’s soaring vocals, the song is a quintessential Ariana. You’ll struggle to sing along to this one but that won’t stop you from reaching for the replay button again and again and again.

The only missteps on the album are the slightly lackluster last track, the bland chorus of “Everyday” and Lil Wayne’s cameo on “Let Me Love You”, but every other track sings beautifully. Make no mistake, this album does not reinvent the wheel and is unabashed in its embrace of pop. When one looks at Ariana Grande’s struggles to create cohesive album in her previous two attempts, this was one that seems to have been made to say “this is me and I am here” and that it absolutely does.

Tracklist (Standard Edition)

  1. Moonlight
  2. Dangerous Woman *
  3. Be Alright *
  4. Into You
  5. Side to Side (Ft. Nicki Minaj)*
  6. Let Me Love You (Ft. Lil Wayne)
  7. Greedy
  8. Leave me Lonely (Ft. Macy Gray)
  9. Everyday (Ft. Future)*
  10. Bad Decisions
  11. Thinking Bout You

Bolded – Favorites

Starred – Singles

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