While Ari’s latex bunny mask on her record’s artwork could be best described as Happy Tree Friends meets 50 Shades of Grey, Dangerous Woman makes up for the gimmicky cover by giving us a performance that tops her last two albums Yours Truly (2012) and My Everything (2014). Although a predominantly pop album, Dangerous Woman also incorporates R&B influences throughout the record and is ultimately Grande coming to terms with her sound and her maturity as an artist.
The album begins with “Moonlight”, the original title of the record, a feather light doo-wop prologue that has a whimsical flirtatiousness reminiscent of her previous albums. Things get steamier with “Dangerous Woman”, as Ariana sings about feeling at her most powerful with her lover. The song is so sensual and arresting, you could almost imagine Grande prancing about her boudoir toying with her feather boa ala Jessica Rabbit. The record picks up the tempo starting from bouncy deep house number “Be Alright” and continues to edgier “Into You”, a track which echoes the album’s recurring theme of risqué danger and emphasizes Grande’s effortless vocal work.
Another notable aspect of Dangerous Woman are Grande’s collaborations, like reggae track “Side to Side” with Nicki Minaj who sounds almost bored even while she says she’s the queen of rap while Ariana runs pop. “Let Me Love You” with Lil Wayne could easily be spotted as one of the album’s fillers while “Everyday” with Future is an improvement, mostly because of the catchy hook. However, all is forgiven with Grande’s collab with Macy Gray in “Leave Me Lonely”. Gray’s laidback, raspy vocals perfectly compliment Ariana’s soaring falsetto making a soulful amalgamation of divas.
Despite how the number of times Ari says “danger” could qualify for a drinking game, Dangerous Woman remains a pleasant surprise and is a considerable improvement for her as an artist. Although a handful of Grande’s previous hits were collaborations (“Breaking Free” with Zedd, “Love Me Harder with The Weeknd, “Bang Bang” with Jessie J and Nicki), Dangerous Woman proves that Grande can hold her own, and that her four octave range and natural stage presence speaks for itself. There’s no doubt that Ariana Grande is a real singer, and real singers don’t need gimmicks to sound good — they just do.