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Ariana Grande’s ‘Dangerous Woman’ a meaningful contemporary pop masterpiece

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Ariana Grande already had a successful career before her first album, “Yours Truly.” With her debut on Broadway at 14 years old and her starring roles on the Nickelodeon sitcoms “Victorious” and “Sam & Cat,” Grande had already made a name and image for herself: a child TV star who loves pop music, cat ears and her signature high ponytail.

“Dangerous Woman,” Grande’s third album, completely disregards this image. Replacing furry ears with leather, Grande begins her transition into a powerful adult artist. “Dangerous Woman,” released May 20, feels honest and compelling as it shares Grande’s honest love experiences through different lenses of pop music.

“Moonlight,” the album’s opener, is a gentle, serene and endearing lullaby. Grande’s vocals blissfully ease across both the song’s twinkly chords and its lightly-plucked strings. While the album begins sweetly with a lullaby about a relationship, it immediately shifts with the title track, “Dangerous Woman.”

Where “Moonlight” is soothing, “Dangerous Woman” is arousing. Grande’s sweet, atmospheric voice becomes more commanding, powerful and seductive. “Something about you makes me want to do things that I shouldn’t,” Grande proclaims, transitioning to the other major theme of “Dangerous Woman:” eroticism.

The first two tracks are a microcosm of the rest of the album, which finds Grande effortlessly alternating between two roles—the seductress and the lover.

Grande seduces with songs like “Everyday,” “Bad Decisions” and “Side to Side.” Fast-paced, sexually charged and often accompanied with heavy synths, Grande explores a different side of moonlight on these tracks.

Occasionally, Grande’s sexuality is so prominent that it even begins to push the envelope for mainstream popular music. Grande is able to talk about men in the same way that they often talk about women in music today. She directs their position and here, their job is to satisfy her needs.

Grande’s needs extend much further than sex. Grande the lover finds herself through songs like “I Don’t Care,” “Be Alright” and “Sometimes,” powerful love anthems that are optimistically beautiful.

Similarly on “Into You,” “Touch It” and “Thinking Bout You,” she projects love and adoration through erotic beats and lyrics, but besides these two themes, the most striking point in the album is Grande’s vocals.

Songs like “Into You,” “Touch It” and “Greedy” perfectly exemplify Grande’s vocal range. Even when stripped down over simple chords, her voice is what drives the album. Throughout “Dangerous Woman,” Grande explores the many different sounds of modern pop music, and explores other genres like house in “Be Alright” and trap in “Everyday.”

Grande’s ability to navigate through different influences and sounds while simultaneously creating a cohesive story about relationships through all of them is impressive.

On top of Grande’s vocals, the album’s production details make her songs more unique, polished and enticing. “Greedy” possesses a key change that electrifies the listener as it reaches its climax and its upbeat rhythm carries so much energy that the song can barely contain itself.

“Knew Better/Forever Boy” are two songs, mixed flawlessly together, that tell the story of two relationships. In “Knew Better,” Grande expresses how her lover is unable to love her the way she expects a man to.

By contrast, on “Forever Boy,” Grande begins to recognize her faults and discuss how she has never truly been able to have a successful relationship or love someone, but proclaims that what she has now is an everlasting love. These two songs, when produced together, showcase Grande’s maturity and her ability to step outside and critique herself in relationships.

Grande’s seamless transition between these two songs is powerful and the perfect representation of what this album has to offer. Here is a woman who is confident in expressing what she wants and expects in a man while espousing an empowering message at the same time. Throughout “Dangerous Woman,” Grande is able to take pride in the emotions she possesses, whether they are of a sexual or more affectionate nature.

“Dangerous Woman” gives the listener an honest impression of every aspect of love. Grande is empowering women by creating an album about loving herself and being free to express what she truly wants.

“Dangerous Woman” goes against the messages the typically misogynistic music industry offers. On it, Grande takes control, sexualizing herself only when she wants to and portrays human emotion through highly detailed songs and flawless vocals.

Troy Kowalchuk can be reached at [email protected]

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