“If you want it, boy, you got it / ain’t you ever seen a princess be a bad b*tch?” Yes, if you mouth is agape to the floor, the aforementioned lyrical quote comes from the “potty mouth” (rather the “potty voice”) of former Nickelodeon star Ariana Grande. On her third studio album Dangerous Woman, Grande exemplifies the hip-hop/Urban Dictionary slang that she “gives no f*cks.” In other words – more respectable, less crude words at that – Ariana Grande is indeed a “Dangerous Woman” and no longer an innocent girl. Remember when Britney Spears said, “I’m not that innocent?” Well, that describes the new, “more mature” Ariana Grande.
So is maturity measured by poise or by embracing the spirit of one’s particular age group or demographic? Maturity can be measured in both ways. On her balladry, with her debut and sophomore albums (Your Truly and My Everything), the maturity was already beyond Grande’s years vocally, hence why she drew comparisons to Mariah Carey. The material, arguably, was listenable by a more mature audience but targeted more to Grande’s younger demographic, hence the lack of over sexualizing.
The maturity that Grande makes isn’t vocally (she was already there in that department), but rather her image, ensuring that she moves beyond a younger fan base and paints herself as a credible artist as opposed to a teen-pop artist. Hey, she’s nearly 23 years of age – she’s grown! The way that most musicians do that is by going for a more rebellious, more profane sound (Nick Jonas, Demi Lovato, and Selena Gomez come to mind). Ariana Grande conforms to such approaches on Dangerous Woman.
How does Ariana Grande reconstruct her image? Well for one, like the opening quote, she’s profane over the course of the album in numerous instances. On “Everyday,” she makes it clear that “He giving me that good sh*t…/oh give it to me (everyday, everyday, everyday).” For teen-pop artists, sh*t, though uttered by teenagers (and younger) more often than not, is not considered part of the bag of tricks for music catered to that age. It gets even deeper with Grande dropping the f-bomb on “I Don’t Care” (“then f*ck’s the point?”) and “Bad Decisions” (“Don’t you know I ain’t f*cking with them good boys?”).
Another way that Grande reconstructs her image is through innuendo and sexuality. “Bad Decisions” is a hotbed for it, referenced earlier. Grande doesn’t necessarily cross the line compared to some pop and urban artists, but her suggestiveness is particularly suggestive. “Side To Side” can be interpreted as being more metaphorical than literal, but had Grande and her writers opted against that golden opportunity of innuendo, it seems disappointing (“I’ve been here all night / I’ve been here all day / and boy, got me walkin’ side to side”). Yeah, “Bang Bang” gave us a taste of this, but “Side To Side,” not to mention “Bad Decisions” and the fantastic “Touch It” take it next level.
The final way that Grande reconstructs her image is the most mature way because Grande doesn’t have to ‘compromise’ morals – playing devil’s advocate of course (AG is grown from my personal perspective and free to do as she pleases). The use of minor keys, as opposed to major keys, gives Grande more fierceness. Even had Grande nipped the profanity, the darker quality of the minor key production would’ve propelled her to the dangerousness she desired.
So to make one last point – rather, raise one last question – does being conformist to rebelliousness in pop music really represent maturity in the long run? The answer is a resounding no. It seems like many popular artists are embracing the ability to flex their potty mouths and amplify sex, even more, these days. While it’s mature musically because it’s considered to be badass, it’s not mature morally, nor does it accurately represent everybody’s way of life. Sure, we’re in an age where openness and bluntness about sex are perceived to be okay but is that notion been blown out of proportion? Deep food for thought to say the least.