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Music Reviews

MPAA Rating
Pop, R&B, Rap/Hip-Hop
Reached No. 2.
Record Label
Republic Records
April 28, 2014
Adam R. Holz
Ariana Grande

Ariana Grande


Bad boys: Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em.

That's the problem on Ariana Grande's "Problem." With an assist from up-and-coming Australian rapper Iggy Azalea, the Sam & Cat star cogitates on the conundrum of leaving that guy she knows better than to stay with … even though the thought of kicking him to the curb is almost more than she can bear.

Grande sets the stage with: "Hey, baby, even though I hate ya/I wanna love ya/I want you (you, you)/ … And even though I can't forgive you/I really want ta/I want you (you, you)."

It would be easier, of course, if her leering lothario decided to leave on his own. But he's not doing that. "Tell me, tell me, baby," Grande pleads, "Why can't you leave me?/'Cause even though I shouldn't want it/I gotta have it."

Then she adds, "Head in the clouds/Got no weight on my shoulders," which is apparently a description of the addictive side of this unhealthy relationship. "I should be wiser/And realize that I've got …"

At this point, rapper Big Sean steps in to complete (in a whisper) that sentence in the chorus: "… one less problem without ya/I got/One less problem without ya."

That's a good thought, finally. But, alas, it doesn't last: "I know you're never gonna wake up/I gotta give up/But it's you (you, you)." Cue the rationalizations, with Grande's excuses veering in a sensual direction: "Every time you touch me/And say you love me/I get a little bit breathless."

Ironically, rapper Iggy Azalea—whose bad girl bona fides on her debut album The New Classic include loads of sexually directed f-words—is the one who manages to muster some emotional fortitude to do what must be done. "Smart money bettin'/I'll be better off without you," she spits. "In no time/I'll be forgettin' all about you." And then there's a moment of honest-to-goodness clarity as Iggy ponders this bad boy's influence in her life: "I'm thinkin' I love the thought of you/More than I love your presence."

Iggy doesn't stop there; she actually seems to do the hard thing that Grande can't when she raps, "The best thing now/Is probably for you to exit/I let you go/Let you back/I finally learned my lesson."

So I guess it's good that at least one of these young women has finally solved her "Problem."