99 Problems But "Problem" Ain't One

by Kadeen Griffiths

At this point, I can't actually decide which is better. The live performance of "Problem" or the official iTunes release of "Problem", which has already skyrocketed the single to number one. The "Problem" snippets that Ariana Grande released last week didn't even do the song justice and the snippets were catchy enough all on their own. Of course, there were those who worried that Grande's single would be the start of a Miley Cyrus-like dive off the deep end into a pool of twerking and R-Rated lyrics. What else could Grande working with Azalea, who is best known for a song called "Pussy", possibly have meant? Apparently, it meant nothing more extreme than that Grande is really, really good at blending pop and hip-hop into a radio friendly jam.

Of course, the world probably should have gotten that memo from her first album, Yours Truly. Grande's first single, "The Way", was a collaboration with Mac Miller. You know, the man behind "Best Day Ever" and such lyrical gems as "Rock like aseop, light the weed and take off, so high I cannot see Adolf"? She also had a single called "Right There" with Big Sean, whose song, "Dance (A$$)", has a chorus that's entirely unprintable. In light of all that, the revelation that Grande was releasing a song with Iggy Azalea should have been a clue that Grande isn't going to let a little thing like her squeaky clean image stop her from working with whoever she wants to work with, provided their musical styles can meet in the middle.

Her live performance of "Problem" at the Radio Disney Music Awards was a statement of that fact. As much as Disney must have gotten used to nude picture scandals and their former stars going to rehab by now, I doubt they would've let Grande debut her hottest and sexiest single at their ceremony if it wasn't appropriate for people of all ages. Grande didn't disappoint, wearing a skin-tight black outfit with sparkling Mickey Mouse ears for her performance and rocking that stage like she owned it.

The song itself didn't feature a single swear word from Azalea and blended hip-hop perfectly with Grande's classic voice and fondness for vintage sounds like the jazz hall lead-in to the upbeat song. The lyrics feature her reprimanding herself for continuing to fall for a boy she can't force herself to walk away from even as she acknowledges that her life would be better without him.

"I know you're never going to wake up. I gotta give up," sings Grande. "But it's you."

There's even an homage to Jay Z's "99 Problems" in the song as if we needed more reasons to love it. "I got 99 problems, but you won't be one," raps Azalea on her part of the track. Is it a more mature sound for Grande? Of course it is. She's growing and maturing as an artist and she's doing it in as natural and gradual a way as she's comfortable with. Is that a #problem?

Listen to the song below.