Review by: Roland Bruynesteyn
Album assigned by: Michael Strait
Ariana Grande is 23 years old and American, from Boca Raton, Florida. She’s mainly a singer, but plays some keyboard apparently. The first song, Moonlight, starts promising. Somewhat girly, for all those adolescents and paedophiles out there. I do not like the song, but I have to admire her voice, even if she overdoes the girly mannerisms constantly. A little bit like Whitney Houston, albeit a little lower. The second song, Dangerous Woman, suggests she wants to assert herself. It turns into a powerful ballad. Very well produced, but somewhat slick.
The third song, Be Alright, is rather pathetic, your typical American dance number, 1980’s Madonna, with 2010’s production values.
Into You starts somewhat promising, with a nice bass line. But again the finger clicks join the conversation. The speeded up section sounds a little contrived, but again, I somehow have to respect her vocal chords, no matter how Madonna-y they sound to me. But it’s generic pop.
Side To Side is a duet with Nicki Minaj. It does not add a whole lot to differentiate it from the rest.
It is immediately followed by Let Me Love You, which is a duet with Lil Wayne, obviously a man. Greedy is the worst so far. The ingredients may not be too bad, a 1970’s Chic bass line, some 1980’s Prince hand claps, some 90’s synthesized horns, but the end result is the worst of all possible worlds. Leave Me Lonely, again a duet, this time with Macy Gray, sounds like a 007 song, somewhere between Adele and Shirley Bassey.
I progressively lose interest. While listening to the rest, I’ll stop giving song-by-song comments. It may be perfect pop, but then I’m no perfect audience for pop. I get the strange feeling that I’m listening to this not to please Michael Strait, but to understand him. Yes, she can sing. Yes, this is (probably) good pop music. It serves a purpose: entertaining the young of heart and mind, getting people to dance, and spreading a message of love, or so I assume. But in what way could this possibly bring music as an art form, or as a way of expressing yourself, forward?
This is work, this is business (and successful at that), but it has no redeeming value at all. It feels synthetic, loveless, run of the mill girl pop. In retrospect, one could undoubtedly say the same of the Supremes, Martha and the Vandellas, the Ronettes and a bunch of other ones in the 60’s, but no matter how formulaic, they were like 50 years earlier and revolutionized the music world in more ways than one!
Imagine an updated Volkswagen New Beetle, in shape and form, to target the same market segment, half a century after the original. If VW does it, it’s charming, innocent nostalgia, building on an archetype. If Toyota would build it, it would look like a silly cash grab. That’s how I feel about Ariana Grande. No doubt, she’s as capable as Toyota, but what’s the deal? I do not feel the need to ever hear this kind of music again; I must be a dad-rocker…
Verdict: she can definitely sing. Her chosen style is rather monotonous and silly; it will get out of fashion pretty soon I guess. I suggest she tries some other things. A bit like Lady Gaga singing with Tony Bennett, but different. For instance a power ballad with Alice Cooper to convince me of her talent in an interesting way.