I entered Starbucks bright and early–as I usually do–preparing to sit down and begin my morning routine. I strolled in with my Bose QuietComfort headphones and was in the middle of switching to a Peaceful Piano Spotify playlist when I saw a rather artistic photo of someone who appeared oddly reminiscent of Ariana Grande under some Pop playlist. I convinced myself that it wasn’t her–perhaps to curb any disappointment I might feel if I discovered I were wrong–and continued to listen to ambient piano background music as I diverted my attention to my study material. But like a fly that just won’t leave you alone, I felt compelled to make sure it wasn’t a new single by Ariana Grande I had just passed up.
After realizing it was indeed Ariana Grande that I saw photoed and not just some hallucinatory fantasy, I listened intently to No Tears Left to Cry. I’ve read articles that dive into the depths of the lyrics, tying them to the events that transpired in Manchester–I suppose it makes sense since I did find the lyrics to be strangely out of sync with the general vibe of the music–but my head was contemplating other things entirely.
Something I noticed with each successive Grande album release is that she seems to enjoy floating around from genre to genre. Dangerous Women–the album–is probably the least indicative of this statement, as she ranged from almost pure rock in the titular Dangerous Woman to homages of her older works like in Moonlight, but when placed alongside My Everything and Yours Truly, I feel her transitions as a musician–her musical evolution, so be it–becomes readily apparent.
Grande began her public music career very early, and so her first album in Yours Truly seems imbued with the innocence and candor that might be expected from a talented teenage girl who only recently experienced increased exposure to media and fame. For as much criticism I can leverage on Grande for not displaying more autonomy over her own music when compared to, let’s say, John Legend or Ed Sheeran, I’ve always felt Tattooed Heart was always a song Ariana Grande enjoyed performing at the time. You can just hear the passion flow through her voice in live performances, and I think these acoustic ballads were genuinely the type of music Grande enjoyed listening to at that age. I’ve seen her cover Adele and Alicia Keys on YouTube informally, and this only serves to add evidence to this claim.
Moving on to My Everything, she takes an undeniably “pop” direction. Objectively, I think this is the album I enjoy the most–it is littered with catchy hits throughout that will sound fantastic on high-end consumer headphones–but the cynical part of me can’t help but to think that this is when her managers, agent, and producers started to sway her in what direction she decided to take with her music. Problem, Break Free, One Last Time, Bang Bang, and Love Me Harder all seem curated to climb the Billboard charts, and rightfully so, they did.
I guess that note is important for me to make because I didn’t necessarily get that feeling when tuning into Dangerous Woman. It was far more experimental, lending itself to the impression that Grande was exploring what type of music she enjoyed listening to, making, and singing. The result was surprisingly sexual, which I had no problems with until it manifested itself distastefully in her music videos.
As Grande gives me the impression that she is reining in control over her music again, I listened to No Tears Left to Cry with great amusement–it wasn’t anything like she produced before. The dashes of EDM that bled into songs like Be Alright, Touch It, and Thinking Bout You are now on full display, including a slower almost a cappella entrance that is pushed to a party tempo in the way a DJ would transition between songs. It’s the only song of hers I could even say adopted a drum and bass type of beat, and the result was shockingly pleasant. It works unexpectedly.
I guess why this is so notable to me is the fact that I’ve also coincidently been enjoying electronic music more and more over the past year. In fact, it’s the genre I decided to place my entire new album in, a far departure from Calcum Scott’s You Are the Reason and James Arthur’s Say You Won’t Let Go, which is more representative of the type of music I’ve been listening to for years past. For all of these reasons, I am so thrilled for Grande’s up-and-coming album if this single is any indicator of the type of music we should expect from her in the near future. Her voice has always been the highlight of her songs for me–it’s really the only aspect of her songs that makes them feel like hers–and the fact it meshes so well in a genre I fell in love with recently is beyond exciting. It’s also worth noting that the accompanying music video has a very cinematic feel, and the fact she’s pursued that direction in her videos gives me reassurance she’s taking her music career seriously. In other words, it’s a good time to be an Arianator!