Upon the release of her debut album, Yours Truly, Ariana Grande was already somewhat of a star. However, even for the girl with a tremendous following formed from her role as Cat Valentine on the endlessly popular Nickelodeon shows, Victorious and Sam & Cat, it was astounding to see just how big a mark Yours Truly set unto the modern-day pop music industry. Often noted as the “new age Mariah Carey“, the whistle note-capable R&B songstress made three huge splashes with her debut in the form of hit singles “The Way”, “Baby I”, and “Right There”. While she’s still pumping out that throwback soul at its finest with a modern pop twist, the spin that she’s putting on her latest hit, “Problem”, takes things from a different angle as compared to her past #1s.
Featuring Aussie rap star Iggy Azalea, “Problem” is considerably more serious in both its tone and lyrical content than her sweetly-delivered past hit singles. Grande trades in her smooth love anthems in favor of something that’s pretty much the exact opposite: a bombacious, brass-ridden uptempo number in which she sings in rebellion against the track’s subject matter. She’s letting go of all of those exes who’ve wronged her in the past and moving on to better things without them, now that she knows better, and she’s got “one less problem” because of it!
It’s all very “summer smash hit” in both its theme and overall production. The team-up with Azalea, who provides an infectious spit on the bridge, was ingenious, as it takes the perceived “good girl” and “bad girl” of a specific musical scene and puts them together on the same track. It nabbed a ton of early hype because of that alone — and it was well-deserved. Extra props need to go out to Big Sean, who provided the whisper track for the album though is not a credited featured artist ala Azalea. It’s such a small vocal part, but it really does help in adding an entire extra layer over the song as it works in conjunction with the (significantly more than usual) booming bass and infectious saxophone-centered hook.
As per Grande, her vocal is as convincing of a pop star as ever, and she’s making strides in the industry in terms of expanding her base audience and making the world fall in love with her. “Problem” has all of the makings of a summer smash, and if early sales reports are anything to go by as she overcomes Pharrell’s “Happy” on the charts, then it most certainly will be that seasonal smash. It could very well be her best-selling single to date once push comes to shove; it’s just that rock solid. Expect good things from Ariana Grande this year, people.