“Don’t need permission/made my decision/to test my limits…” so begins the title track off of Ariana Grande’s new album, Dangerous Woman. The song is clearly about Ariana becoming powerful and making her own way in the world, but who is it actually aimed toward? Did Grande just throw some shade at someone? Not quite. According to Genius, Ms. Grande’s song is more harmless than it might sound.
“In an Instagram post, Grande revealed the title comes from Egyptian feminist writer Nawal El Saadawi’s 1975 novel Woman at Point Zero: They said, ‘You are a savage and dangerous woman.’ I am speaking the truth. And the truth is savage and dangerous.”
So if Ariana isn’t throwing shade at someone like her idol Mariah Carey does, are the song’s lyrics really to be taken at face value? The song starts out with a mellow, almost inaudible beat layered over Grande’s soft-yet-powerful-vocals, only to be taken up a notch when the chorus starts. The plucky bass in the beginning of the song gets louder as Arianna’s killer vocals lift us up and offer the chorus. With our attention “locked and loaded, completely focused…”, Ariana Grande then ups the ante again by killing it on some high notes (did she just harmonize with herself?).
Okay, the lyrics aren’t shady, but Ariana’s “Dangerous Woman” is still an interesting song. It’s something of a coming-of-age for Grande, who started her path towards stardom as an actress on the Nickelodeon show iCarly (Arianna’s name on the show was Cat if you want to have a quick flashback). “Dangerous Woman” marks quite the turn from Ariana’s last albums Yours Truly and My Everything, both of which portrayed a more gentle, almost shy side to Grande.
Teen Vogue pointed out that only two male artists (Lil’ Wayne and Future) are featured on the tracks for Dangerous Woman, and even then they don’t get huge roles (Grande is a student of Mariah Carey, after all). That could point to even more evidence that Ariana’s album is about her becoming who she is truly meant to be and standing on her own two feet.
If “Dangerous Woman” isn’t your cup of tea, perhaps some of the album’s other tracks will be more your speed. As is to be expected, Ariana’s “Moonlight” is a slow, soft song slightly reminiscent of Grande’s older song “Honeymoon Avenue,” and seems to draw on influences like Richie Valens and Donny Belmont And The Teenagers. This song makes it clear that Ariana’s musical inspirations are numerous and widely varied, as just a few tracks later Grande can be heard belting out a move-your-body kind of dance/R&B song with Nicki Minaj on “Side-To-Side.”
Ariana flirts with R&B yet again when she teams up with Macy Gray for the song “Leave Me Lonely.” The song starts with Macy Gray crooning out a soulful hook that sounds something like a female version of The Animals’ “House Of The Rising Sun.” Ariana Grande then chimes in with a smooth hook that would make Mariah Carey cry tears of joy.
In the wake of Dangerous Woman, some are debating whether Grande should unseat Britney Spears as the nominal Queen of Pop. The release of Grande’s Dangerous Woman certainly caused quite a stir amongst the press, and Arianna’s previous albums proved she deserves to be taken seriously. As Inquirer.net found, Grande talked to Billboard about her feelings surrounding the new album.
“To me, a dangerous woman is someone who is not afraid to take a stand—to be honest and be herself..”
Ariana clearly fits that description. Grande has really bared her soul on her latest album. On “Knew Better/Forever Boy,” Ariana writes something of a reverse love letter to an unnamed person, telling them that they should’ve tried harder, and that they lost an exceptional person using a sassy “Can’t nobody love you there like I do.”
— Ariana Grande (@ArianaGrande) May 24, 2016
[Photo by Greg Allen/Invision/AP Images]