It's only her third album but with Dangerous Woman, Ariana Grande is officially ushering in a totally new era in her career. Grande may officially be as dangerous as the woman on this newest album. Are they one and the same though? Do fiction and reality match up where Grande is concerned? With this latest effort, she's fully shaken off the rarefied Nickelodeon schmaltz. She's fully embracing her womanhood in her music, just as she's embraced it in real life. While Grande's ostensible "transition" to a more mature sound and new phase in her career hasn't been as fraught as that of other pop stars, there have been some bumps in the road. That certainly doesn't mean Grande is dangerous in any traditional definition of the word. But she is definitely dangerous — in a really good way.
Grande's danger comes from embracing the forced maturity that comes with growing up in the public eye but personalizing it and positively channeling it into her art. She burst on to the scene at 16, with minor Nickelodeon roles flourishing into her role as Cat Valentine on Sam & Cat. By the time her first album (Yours Truly) dropped, she was 20 and ready to break fully into her musical career. Drawing comparisons to Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston, it was evident that Grande was never going to simply be a pop star. Both Carey and Houston encourage more mature, feminine but strong feelings associated with pop music — perhaps this links right back in with their vocal ranges. It's the same case with Grande. The power that propels her voice is the kind to make you sit up and take notice.
So by the time we arrive to Dangerous Woman, we're finally met with a slew of songs that match the more grown-up identity of her voice. Her voice is equal parts yearning, resolve, and positive reinforcement. There is no line between fact and fiction for Grande because here, she has found the right tone (musically and topically) to talk about her desire. The danger of the woman on this album is not a criminal kind of danger, it's the danger of a woman who knows exactly what she wants and is openly craving it. "Moonlight," "Dangerous Woman," "Into You," and "Side by Side" have Grande openly pining for what she wants and how badly she wants the man who's caught her eye. It's been said that "Moonlight" is about her beau, Ricky Alvarez, and if the same is true for the other songs, then Grande's focus on being with her man opens up the floor to discussing how we react to women really going for what they want.
The kind of lustiness that comes with single-mindedly pursuing the person you want, romantically, can turn anyone into a dangerous person. It's refreshing to see Grande channel the headiness of that desire into something musically potent. That's the kind of danger that keeps us listening because what makes a woman empowering to the point of being dangerous is when she is candid about what she wants, showing no fear of the consequences. I call that beautiful. Where female pop stars can risk tipping the scales too heavily into the "safe" kind of romantic yearning or into the "overtly sexual" version, Grande strikes a balance in all aspects. This lends a credibility to the danger of her romantic need for the man she sings to and about.
So yes, if this is what dangerous looks like on Grande, it's a sincerely good look. Here's to hoping the era of the Dangerous Woman is here to stay!