Friday 20 May 2016

Ariana Grande - Dangerous Woman

Ariana Grande - Dangerous Woman

"Ain't you ever seen a princess be a bad bitch?" asks Ariana on Bad Decisions. It's a not so subtle nod to her television past and how she's become the dangerous woman of today.

Of course, it's a transformation we've seen countless times, from Britney to Miley Cyrus. But Ariana has traversed that journey with ease. Dangerous Woman gives us a young woman reaching maturity, taking control of her sexuality and her career.

It's all there in the lyrics. Take Into You, the album's standout banger. "Been waiting and waiting for you to make a move, before I make a move," she breathlessly intones before commanding in the chorus "a little less conversation and a little more touch my body". The title track, meanwhile, opens with the line "don't need permission, made my decision to test my limits" and then "taking control of this kind of moment, I'm locked and loaded". Coiled, tense, her sexuality is empowering.

And what makes her crazy? Boys. "I'm so into you I can barely breathe"; "something 'bout you makes me feel like a dangerous woman"; "Boy, you know that you drive me crazy"; "every time I see you I don't wanna behave". There's definitely a running theme to the lyrics here, female sexuality as hysteria, reckless and powerful.

What's most powerful of all, though, is that this sexuality is subtle. She may have the vocals to belt out some impressive histrionics - and belt she does - but for the most part her voice is hushed and restrained. This is sexuality in a playful way, Ariana toying with us, giving us knowing femininity with a dash of girlish innocence that's far more enticing than overt innuendo. The cover art says it all, with its mix of cuteness and Playboy bondage.

That restraint, though, also proves her popstar confidence. 2014's 'My Everything' may have purposefully been filled with outlandish vocals as she put her stamp on the pop charts singing anthems from Max Martin and Ryan Tedder, but on 'Dangerous Woman' she knows that's now unnecessary, saving her voice for only the most climactic of moments.

For every thrilling pop track - the camp fun of Greedy, the seductive Into You, the reggae-soaked Side To Side featuring Nicki Minaj - there's the hushed opener Moonlight, the sensuous R&B of Let Me Love You with Lil Wayne, and the moody Leave Me Lonely with Macy Gray. Future lends his talents to Everyday, all grinding synths and trap beats, whilst the deluxe edition ends with Thinking Bout You that gently shimmers into moonlight. There's a variety of genres covered with a leaning towards R&B. It's polished and mature, but unafraid to not be too serious.

Of course, both Max Martin and Ryan Tedder (plus a host of other talents) pop up here to lend a hand. But Ariana herself crops up as a writer on the majority of tracks. She's testing her limits, it's her business, she's taking control.

She's a dangerous woman.


Gizzle's Choice:
* Dangerous Woman
* Into You
* Thinking Bout You

Listen: 'Dangerous Woman' is out now.