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Album Review

Ariana Grande certainly didn't hang out in role-model land very long. And on Dangerous Woman she's gleefully lit the match on any lingering hopes that the nice girl from Nickelodeon's Sam & Cat might still be loitering about somewhere in the back of her personality.

"I used to feel so obligated to be so much more," she sings on the bluntly titled "I Don't Care." "I used to let some people tell me how to live and what to be/But if I can't be me, then what's the point? No/I don't care about it anymore/ … I love me."

Families to Miss Grande: Message received, loud and clear.

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Pro-social Content

"Be Alright" is one of the album's few attempts to be sweet and tender without veering into sexual territory. Amid struggle and uncertainty, Ariana tells a beau, "But the hard times are golden/'Cause they all lead to better days/We're gonna be alright." "Leave Me Lonely" demonstrates self-respect and restraint as Ariana wisely tells a bad boy not to come back ("So when you walk out that door/Don't you come back no more/ … You're a dangerous love/Baby, you're no good for me, darling"). "Sometimes" promises commitment ("I ain't even think of leaving sometimes/I ain't even think of letting go"). Deluxe Edition bonus track "Knew Better/Forever Boy" treads similar territory as Ariana repeatedly vows, "You're my forever boy."

Objectionable Content

How much does Dangerous Woman focus on sex? Let me count the ways: Seven of 11 tracks on the base album and all four of the Deluxe Edition bonus tracks revolve around that subject. Here's a representative sampling:

"Moonlight" finds Ariana singing breathily, "Puts his lips on my neck/Makes me want to give him my body."

"Dangerous Woman" gushes, "All that you got, skin to skin, oh my god/Don't ya stop, boy." The track also suggests, "All girls wanna be like that/Bad girls underneath, like that."

"Into You" brags that Ariana's up for any game her man wants to play ("So name a game to play, and I'll roll the dice, hey") and eventually trades coy flirtiness for more direct instructions ("So, baby, come light me up and maybe I'll let you on it") as she says she's on the verge of losing control ("I can't wait no more/I'm on the edge with no control").

The reggae-themed "Side to Side" finds Ariana telling a guy with a "bad reputation" that she wants to "rock with your body." She brags, "Tonight I'm making deals with the devil." Guest Nicki Minaj's contribution is too graphic to print in its description of the male anatomy. Her raps also include the put-down "b--ches" and a use of the f-word.

On the sex-themed "Let Me Move You," Ariana profanely tells a lover, "And I don't normally say this, but, g--d--n, you're the best, best, best." Guest Lil Wayne crudely imagines intercourse with his singing co-partner on the song, again with lyrics too explicit to print.

"Everyday" uses that word to describe how frequently Ariana and her lover do some "good s---" together.

"Greedy" uses a suggestive double entendre ("You know that I'm coming tonight") as Ariana confesses, "I'm just physically obsessed/And I'm greedy."

Bonus track "Thinking Bout You" hints at indulging a masturbation fantasy during a lover's absence. Additional bonus tracks "Touch It" and "Bad Decisions" are likewise completely focused on sex.

Summary Advisory

"I Don't Care" tells fans and critics alike, "Now I laugh about the things that used to be important to me/Used to have a hold on me, used to have a hold on me/Like what do you think." But these days? "I don't care about it anymore."

In some contexts, not getting worked up over others' opinions and criticism can be a mark of healthy self-confidence. In this case it's more like Ariana Grande is simply weary of anyone suggesting that the myriad reckless choices she's provocatively indulging might not be as awesome as she insists they are.

Ariana is absolutely infatuated with the idea of embracing—and I do mean embracing—dangerous men who make her feel daring. And she's urging her fans to become similarly obsessed.

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May 20, 2016

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Adam R. Holz

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