After the infamous “Donut Licking Fiasco of 2015,” former Nickelodean actress, Ariana Grande, has committed herself to her most ambitious promotional agenda yet: adulthood. Between sitting for Playboy Bunny-inspired album cover shoots, donning lingerie in risque music videos, and ditching her signature pony-tail, Grande’s stance on maturity reflects the failed approaches of countless kid stars before her.
While Miley Cyrus’s grinding routine and Lindsay Lohan’s, well, adult career have failed to fully redeem these once beloved kid stars, Grande’s four-octave voice has set her apart. With each performance, her talent proves to be a magnetic tour-de-force that has drawn in countless fans (myself included) since 2013’s doo-wop inspired Yours Truly.
2015’s Dangerous Woman is a collection of mostly sulty, sexually charged R&B meant to capitalize on Grande’s most mature asset, her voice. A shameless nod to Aretha Franklin’s 1967 hit, “(You Make Me Feel like) A Natural Woman,” the title track features an empowered Grande belting over slinky guitar riffs and a smooth high-hat beat. Meanwhile,the Macy Gray-featuring soul of “Leave Me Lonely,” offers a rare glimpse of a raw and vulnerable Ariana shedding a fickle lover. Whether it’s the contemporary trap of “Everyday” or the throwback brass & electric piano of “I Don’t Care,”Grande’s vocal versatility allows for a diverse assortment of R&B achieved by few in the Top 40.
The 15-track LP, however, doesn’t confine itself to one genre. Fans of the 2014 breakthrough hit, “Break Free,” will appreciate the 90’s Mariah-meets-Mura-Musa feel of “Be Alright,” and the addictive pulse of “Into You.” Those missing the 50’s doo-wop and girl-group rehashing of Grande’s debut might prefer the demure opener, “Moonlight,” in which Grande romances a contemporary “Elvis with some James Dean in his eyes.” Grande even stakes out new territory with frequent collaborator, Nicki Minaj, on the domineering reggae of “Side to Side.” Embracing both the familiar and new, Dangerous Woman merges past tastes with an emerging curiosity for new genres and timbres.
Although the eclectic mix of genres and lackluster lyrics, at times, mimic the inconsistency found on My Everything, Dangerous Woman finds America’s favorite “Mini-Mariah” inching toward finally establishing an authentic presence that is undeniably Ariana Grande. Until then, Grande’s latest LP will stand as another stepping stone between the Nickelodeon child star posting Adele covers on Youtube, and the woman who has embraced her showstopping talent as the hallmark of a “dangerous woman.”
Ariana Grande’s Dangerous Woman hits shelves May 21st! In the meantime, watch Ariana and Miley take on “Don’t Dream It’s Over!“