Despite having a voice that’s a throwback to vintage divas like Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick and Patti LaBelle, Ariana Grande was often regarded as a child star, void of talent and charisma—an act that would eventually fizzle out like the rest of her contemporaries.
It wasn’t until the 2016 release of her third album, Dangerous Woman, that Grande started to turn heads.
Grande started production on Dangerous Woman right after the release of her second studio album, My Everything, and with it Grande cemented her musical roots. She cultivated a unique blend that sprinkled melodies from her old work to create new music that introduced a fresh, more mature sound.
Originally titled Moonlight, Grande went through several iterations before deciding on the album’s final name. What came after a year and a half were songs reflecting the struggles in Grande’s day-to-day life, a 40-minute trip through her maturity as a singer-songwriter and further disassociation from her child idol title.
Debuting at number two on the Billboard Top 200 and receiving a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album, Grande’s Dangerous Woman is a wild ride through the ups and downs of a young woman dealing with the pressures of fame, love and self-discovery.
With the new sound came a flurry of different producers that Grande would go on to later describe as “mathematicians,” carefully crafting and rearranging her wayward thoughts and melodies to create a comprehensive and cohesive sound that fit her new direction. Some producers Grande personally lauded were Max Martin and Savan Kotecha, with the latter working as an executive producer for Grande.
The infusion of talented producers meant that Grande was able to introduce a deeper, more mature and sexier sound.
Some of the standout tracks from this album include the title track; Into You, a power pop ballad about patiently waiting for a long-lost love interest; Be Alright, a ‘90s deep house-inspired track about being optimistic no matter the circumstances, and Greedy, a horn-filled disco pop dance cut about Grande confessing her feelings for a guy she’s been seeing. All of the songs on the album more or less describe the difficulties of being an early twenty-something, topics Grande usually shied away from in favor of content better suited for a Kidz Bop album. Dangerous Woman, however, gave us the true Grande, the one she wanted the world to see.
With that sound we witnessed her transition from Nickelodeon star to pop diva.
Her latest single thank u, next is slowly rising up the charts, and her latest album, Sweetener, peaked at #1 on the Billboard Top 200. We can look back at Dangerous Woman as the genesis of the current, and future iterations of Grande’s music.