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Ariana Grande is counting down her number of problems this summer as her pop hit single “Problem” makes it to No. 2 on Billboard’s chart. Her highest-charting single to date, the track is a sneak-peek of her second studio album, which is expected to be released at the end of the summer. Produced by Max Martin, Ilya and Shellback, and featuring collaborations with Zedd, Ryan Tedder, Benny Blanco and Rodney Jerkins, this second album is expected to skyrocket up to the top of the charts upon its release.
Continuing in the style of her 2013 debut album “Yours Truly”, the style of “Problem” brings back memories of R&B from the ‘90’s. Loaded with a fat, jazzy saxophone riff, the funky dance groove pops with a modern drumbeat. The throw-back phenomenon carries on in the chorus which has a very trappy sound to it. Grande’s voice comes as feathery, soft and sweet as J-Lo’s “Waiting for Tonight,” only much, much quieter. She definitely doesn’t sound angry enough to be saying, “I got one less problem without you,” and it’s actually hard to understand her lyrics, but her remarkable vocal range makes up for it as she reaches those coveted Mariah Carey-level notes.
Meanwhile, what sounds like one of the Ying-Yang Twins whispers, “I got one less problem without you,” the saxophone wails on, the track builds up until everything drops out suddenly, grabbing your attention again. Grande manages to solidly nail the lead vocal, just as she has throughout her first album. Not so far out of range that the rest of us can’t sing along to the summer anthem, Grande belts those high notes from her gut, then drops back down to her low tones.
Halfway through the song, featured rapper Iggy Azalea soars in to spit the reasons why she’s got 99 problems, but you won’t be one. Her vociferous voice contrasting with the mysterious whisper and Grande’s quiet complaints somehow brings the song together as a whole statement. “Problem” is a summer anthem for all ages, having a subject most anybody could relate to, whereas songs on “Yours Truly” seemed to be geared a little more towards the teenie bopper crowd. Grande managed to make the universal theme appropriate for her younger fans though, without stepping too far over the line in either direction. As we wait for her second album to drop on August 24th, 2014, fans will continue to watch her surprise them.