Friday, July 11th, 2014

Ariana Grande ft. Zedd – Break Free

“Because she can sing”


Megan Harrington: I don’t understand the timing of this single and I don’t understand why Grande is suddenly a vocalist for hire. Sure, the song’s credited to her, but “Break Free” is a Zedd song with Grande’s powerhouse vocals semi-anonymously served up in tandem. There’s none of the floaty range she showcased on previous singles, in fact she’s fairly interchangeable with Foxes or Hayley Williams. It’s a baffling move for an artist that’s on the cusp of true stardom. 

Will Adams: Easily an upgrade from “Better Left Unsaid,” which wore its perfunctory-EDM-crossover-track status on its sleeve. Zedd is mostly to credit for “Break Free,” turning out a propulsive track that features his signature throbbing kick and close vocal harmonies, but Grande also deserves kudos for her (relatively) restrained performance. And though the lyrics are total nonsense (you can seriously pick any one at random, but my favorite is, “Like a deadly fever/On a highway to hell”… what?) there’s enough meat on the hook to keep the fist-pump factor up.

Anthony Easton: The line between historically minded formalism and pop cliche is such a tiny spectrum, and work done by people with voices like Grande have to be very careful about the message they are delivering. The production is better than her phrasing here, and even then, I would like deeper house.

Patrick St. Michel: It’s a Zedd song with Ariana Grande singing over it…that’s it. Save for the late electro hiccuping and the one shot of Grande getting to really show off her voice, this is more of a marketing coup than anything else…Grande’s people clearly want her to “win” the summer, and now she has an option for the EDM kids out there, too. Smart move, but this just sounds like some of the songs Zedd’s done with Lady Gaga or Namie Amuro, but with the Zedd brand name displayed more prominently. It’s not any move forward but a retreat to the safest possible place in 2014, and it undersells how good Grande has been so far.

Stephen Thomas Erlewine: Like Ariana Grande herself, “Break Free” — the second single from her second album — wears well, slowly making the transition from perfectly pleasant to mildly addictive in short order. Part of her appeal is that she’s not a showy vocalist; she reserves her power for the hook or the bridge, whatever serves the song. “Break Free” could stand a stronger hook–its chorus feels like a pre-chorus–but Grande’s low-key charisma eventually sells it.

Alfred Soto: Fleeting moments when she sounds like Robyn notwithstanding, this is generic American Top 40 without Iggy Azalea perk. She isn’t even persuasive asking us if we want “it.”

Thomas Inskeep: Well, this is a disappointment. Coming off the world-conquering “Problem” I hoped for and expected more from Grande, but this is simply EDM/pop-by-numbers. Even though I was a big fan of “Clarity,” I blame Zedd for this the way I blame him for the meh-ness of all his tracks on ARTpop. This is also written and produced in such a way that Grande’s voice, so big and widescreen on “Problem,” sounds tinny and pinched here, even shrill.

Scott Mildenhall: For a song all about release there’s very little joy in this – least of all in the release. Grande ditches oversinging for simply shouting in a staccato chorus that necessitates it, and yet she’s still drowned out by a pummeling racket from a 2011 backup folder. “A load of noise” might sound harsh, but then noise often does, and that this load does assures it’s not praise but indictment. None of this is helped by lyrics so ropy you could skip with them.

Katherine St Asaph: This is the part where I YOU MY CLARITY *boshes*

Jer Fairall: “Because she can sing,” a friend recently informed me when I asked why all the hype surrounding Ariana Grande. So here’s a follow-up question: are Mariah-style coos and wails still the only way to prove vocal chops even in 2014? Fit them overtop some anonymous EDM noises and the answer probably doesn’t matter.

Brad Shoup: Grande can’t get discussed without a dig at her pipes, which confuses me at least a little, because all the hinted & explicit comparisons to Mariah seem off to me. With each single, it seems more and more like she’s trying to be Rihanna, with raw vocal oomph substituting for world-beating swag. What remains from Zedd’s laser massacre isn’t the hook, or her cadence on the refrain, but a total dedication to emotional overwhelm. It’s deadly for synths, but for vocals, I’m the only one in danger.

Reader average: [6.41] (24 votes)

Vote: 0   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10

10 Responses to “Ariana Grande ft. Zedd – Break Free”

  1. “Problems” has its charm but this one is completely charmless. The production is sub-par which doesn’t help Grande in any way, and the hooks are unmemorable.

  2. Y’all just h8rs; this song is flames ????????????

  3. I’m just gonna assume those are a series of dancing woman and fire emojis

  4. I was going to hold off on voting but then I saw that [4] average and was just, like, no. Anybody who can listen to that chorus without sitting at least a *little* straighter has a metal oxygen-pumping machine where their heart is supposed to be.

  5. this is true beep boop

  6. I hope all you go back to Monster Island where you belong!


  7. I really like how the choruses build up every time. The first one is pretty spare and then the last one is really pumpin. Zedd did make her voice sound kinda nasal though, and he covered up her voice a bit.

  8. what in the fresh hell is this video

  9. Will, you’re beautiful, thank you for the reminder

  10. (now we look like INSIDERS)