-“Dangerous Woman” is a sanitized, middling, and thoroughly colorless image of danger.

The color pallet of “Dangerous Woman”‘s album cover really gives a perfect indication as to the sonic color of this album: grey. Now, grey could mean one of two things: classy, vintage, and regal, as on the first two tracks, or boring and lacking in any personality. Unfortunately, “Dangerous Woman” is overwhelmingly of the latter camp.

Let me talk about those first two tracks, though, as they are fantastic. The opener, fittingly named “Moonlight,” is a gorgeous, sensual ballad perfect for a roaring fireplace. It’s got it figured out to a tee: it’s in 6/8, and it’s got fleeting strings, finger snaps, spacious production, and of course a great melody. The following track stays in 6/8, but is a little dirtier and more sexual than sensual. With a simple drum beat, little guitar details, and a quiet organ in the background, the instrumentation is spare, but Ariana makes the song soar with some really impressive vocals. But the song isn’t just a self-indulgent vehicle for Ariana’s vocal chops; the melody here is infectious and really classy.

The next two tracks are way less spare and soul inspired though, as “Be Alright” and “Into You” are very much Big Pop Songs. “Into You” has a constant 4/4 kick drum fit for the dance floor, and “Be Alright” is straight up House inspired, with a wordless vocal sample in the chorus and some bells at the core of the beat not unlike something Jamie xx would do. They work as the club ready singles, as they are infectiously catchy and danceable.

But elsewhere, things take a nosedive into complete mediocrity. You can’t have pop songs without a good hook, and songs like “Let Me Love You,” “Side to Side,” and “Everyday” are thoroughly lazy affairs with no memorability. On “Sometimes,” the laziness turns intolerable, with insufferable autotuned “la la la”s by a nameless song assassin operating at the core of the song. It’s seriously unlistenably annoying shit makes me question how the fuck it got green lit.

But that aside, so many of these songs are just… OK. I often say this, it doesn’t get worse than boring music, and “Dangerous Woman” is seriously boring. Like the cover, it’s got no color in its cheeks. It’s got no personality. Ariana Grande, for all of her vocal acrobatics, has no danger, has no defining trait. If I must compare it to last year’s acclaimed pop album Carly Rae Jepsen’s “E•MO•TION,” like everyone else is doing, I’ll say this: that album felt intimate and highly emotive, whereas this album is purely focus grouped, calculated product. Ariana can sing, and some of the melodies are alright, but there is nothing for me to latch onto here, emotionally, and that’s a fundamental problem that I’ll never be able to get over.

2 stars

Standout Tracks: “Moonlight” “Dangerous Woman” “Be Alright” “Into You” “I Don’t Care”

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