Ariana Grande’s ‘Dangerous Woman’: Album Review

Kathy Iandoli | May 20, 2016 8:00 am
At this stage in Ariana Grande‘s career, she’s nearly infallible, musically. With her debut, Yours Truly, she made a successful transition from teen sitcom star to respectable musician. Her follow-up, My Everything, allowed her to grow up musically without losing her core fan base. With Dangerous Woman (out ), Grande continues that upward trajectory, complete with flawless melodies and solid jams.

Very early on, Mariah Carey comparisons were constantly thrown her way, perhaps prematurely. Here, it’s destiny fulfilled. Ariana has the chops to do it all: From belting out dreamy coos on the opener “Moonlight” to getting kinky on the title track. It’s certainly reminiscent of Mimi, especially when it comes to Grande’s ability to seamlessly weave in and out of hip-hop — a welcomed Nicki Minaj cameo on “Side To Side” could have included a Rihanna check-in, but alas it didn’t. The woozy “Let Me Love You” gets some breathy bars from Lil Wayne, and it’s a good time, which isn’t a given at this stage in his career. Even Future on “Everyday” fits almost perfectly despite Ariana having tightly un-doctored vocals alongside Nayvadius’ Auto-Tune. The final collaboration comes with Macy Gray fresh off the Fuller House set for “Leave Me Lonely,” a perfect balance of smooth and rough, as Gray traipses into Nina Simone territory with her husky verse.

Production-wise, Ariana placed most of her faith in Ilya Salmanzadeh and Max Martin, making every track almost a guaranteed hit. Magic happens when Ilya and Martin show up together, evidenced by “Into You,” but also on the breezy “Sometimes” and the sexy bonus cut “Bad Decisions.”

In the curious case of Ariana Grande, her status as borderline iconic could make Dangerous Woman go in either direction: passible and average or a bona fide slam dunk. Her third effort is undoubtedly the latter, packed with smart production and perfect vocals. Winning combinations like this are damn near impossible to come by, which is what brought Grande here in the first place. With no plateau yet, she proves there’s still nowhere else for her to go but up.

Score: 4.5/5

— Kathy Iandoli