It is very upsetting to hear such unimaginative melodies when the musician’s entire musical image tries to be based on catchy tunes. If there is one thing that a musician like Ariana Grande is supposed to stand for in the music world, it’s her irresistible melodic catch that envelops listeners to become the next big hit of the year. There’s no problem with this being your image, as long as you can actually achieve that goal. Dangerous Woman comes nowhere close to it. It was mostly a pitiful attempt at livening up the ears and minds of listeners with weak vocal melismas and basic lines that skate over the music as to say that nothing important is actually happening. The melodies were complacent and flat throughout the album. They were also quite detracting from the music due to their dominance in the texture. Only the song “Into You” and guest Nicky Minaj’s rapped verse in “Side To Side” gave any sense of good melodic shape and pull throughout the entire hour. Some songs had a couple of nice melodic moments in the chorus with octave doubling or a change of pace, but none of that could save the music from the awful shape and pitch language used. For the most part, this album was set up well for the melody to take the reigns and make the work truly listenable and memorable. The melody did take the reigns but went nowhere despite all of the fluff and ear candy. Try again, Ms. Grande.
There were some puzzling ups and downs in terms of the substance of the harmony, but overall it failed to get off its feet and was taken too much for granted. While the first half of the album was really struggling with finding an acceptable harmonic structure, the last few songs surprisingly picked it up and provided more nuanced rhythms and progressions. The sad thing was, no matter if Grande found that nuance or not, the harmony never changed. There were no big harmonic shifts from section to section, which really let down the form of each song. Like I said, the harmony was taken for granted, since it was seemingly slapped onto the song because it was needed and not because it was going to add anything important or interesting. To dispel a common belief: no, a musician doesn’t need this type of harmonic structure in order to make music – not even pop music. Putting three chords underneath your voice doesn’t solve anything. Even if those three chords happen to work well with themselves and generate some sort of musicality, as in “Touch It” and “Thinking About You”, the song cannot grow further without some sort of variation. A musician can only be so good when employing a short harmonic loop, and sadly Dangerous Woman uses them way too much without giving much thought to the progression in the first place. It’s a big letdown, and a main reason why I won’t listen to this album again.
The only real worth that this album has comes from the overly synthetic and animated timbres that at least give the listener a cheap feel of energy. Sure, the builds were all too obvious and the presentation of the beat was nothing exhilarating, but it still served the purpose of being danceable. That alone deserves credit, but aside from some unique additions brass and strings in “Greedy” and “I Don’t Care”, nothing else merits any praise. Grande actually found a more useful and exciting sound when everything was less rushed and attempting to sound like a dance tune. The chill factor in “I Don’t Care” and “Leave Me Lonely” was a nice break, and with a little more room and care for the timbre they could have been the true cornerstones for the album’s sound and direction. Perhaps this could be a direction for Grande in the future, seeing as her attempts at being energetic were less effective. The timbre eventually came to a lull by the end of the album and topped off what was quite a disappointing experience.
Dangerous Woman is a safe, accessible, and useful work for today’s music scene. It seemed to sacrifice a lot of potential musical experimentation in order to sound like what has worked before it for its audience. I’ll go ahead and say that the absence of any real experimentation is mostly due to Ariana Grande’s lack of confidence and talent. It works out for her in the end, though, since ultimately she, along with her producers, know how to get that precious airtime. Dangerous Woman has been a favorite among many casual listeners this year. None of these songs (with the possible exception of the title song) will last beyond a few years, but it has certainly made its presence felt and has found a strong market.
Final Score: 74/180