It's been weeks of buildup and hype, but Ariana Grande's new single "Problem" finally dropped last night (April 27) following the singer's saucy performance at the Radio Disney Music Awards.
The saxophone-filled track continues the pattern set by Grande's 2013 debut album Yours Truly by being heavily influenced by the '90s R&B scene. This time, "Problem" pulls from the funky, funky streets with a jazz-influenced riff. An overwhelming (but welcome) dose of saxophone leads the song before the more modern drum-filled beat drops.
While the verses remain rooted in modern pop music, the trappy chorus is nothing but pure throwback. A whispered voice declares "I got one less problem without you" while that ol' golden instrument dominates everything else. The track builds and builds to something that should be explosive, but instead everything drops out and it's oddly hypnotizing.
As for Grande, it was obvious she was always going to kill the vocal on the lead single from her second studio album, and she definitely does that on "Problem." She's as breathy and lispy as ever, and it's frankly hard to understand what the heck she's singing half the time, but the impressiveness of her vocal register is hard to ignore. Yes, Grande has been compared to Mariah Carey dozens of times, but the similarities are hard to ignore.
Both singers possess that ever-coveted whistle register, which Grande uses sparingly in "Problem," though she does soar to those high notes for a bit of effect. Mostly, Grande goes for the noted in the melody that are in her powerhouse: nothing but singing from the gut. For effect, it definitely works. The track is accessible enough to sing along to, but then fans are reminded that Grande quietly has one of the best voices in the 2010s.
"Problem" features rapper Iggy Azaela, who brings some much needed anger and energy into the biting lyrics of "Problem." While Grande is quiet in her vocals, Azaela slays her verse, nearly yelling out the fact that she has 99 problems, but you are no longer one. The play off works for "Problem," which otherwise could have been too quiet for Grande's own good.
"Problem" is a forward step in Grande's career without being too overbearing. While some songs on Yours Truly felt nearly too youthful ("Tattooed Heart," "Honeymoon Avenue"), "Problem" is all adult while still being appropriate for Grande's insanely young target demographic. She's stepping a little outside the box but not going too far. She's not going to pull a Miley quite yet.
But she's still one of the biggest stars to watch for in 2014, and don't be surprised if "Problem" is all over the radio.
Listen to the new Grande single "Problem" (feat. Iggy Azalea) below: