Thursday, October 9th, 2014

Ariana Grande ft. The Weeknd – Love Me Harder

Rejected titles include “Love Me Better,” “Love Me Faster,” “Love Me Stronger”…


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[6.30]

Jer Fairall: Ariana Grande’s voice only serves to remind me of all of the reasons I was so grateful to see 21st century pop expand beyond Mariah-style vocal fascism, enough so that, for as much as his skeeziness feels less and less like an act with each new release, I was eager to hear how Abel Tesfaye might offer a literal and figurative perversion of Grande’s anodyne approach.  No such luck: “Love Me Harder” is pleasantly inoffensive mush, with Tesfaye reduced to PG-rated innuendo and a vocal stripped of so much of his usual bleak intensity that literally any current male R&B up-and-comer could have filled the role. For her part, Grande annoys me less than usual, the succinctness of the piece allowing little room for melismatic displays, but the pairing still feels like a missed opportunity.
[5]

Maxwell Cavaseno: So we’re sending the innocent princess of pop to do a song with a guy who’s currently releasing a single where he’s doing patois-inflected yelps about training girls to give head. It’s so BAIT to think we’re supposed to imagine Ariana looking at a lazy-eyed deviant like Abel with hearts in her eyes and feel a panic. It’s a little patronizing, y’know? As if we’re supposed to slow-motion dive, screwed-down “NOOOOOAAAAUUUUUUGGHHHHH!!!!” as we try to save her from The Weeping Willow’s demonic clutches. But ‘lo and behold, what did we get? Uhm… Not a lot actually. Abel leaves his trademark production behind and is asked to do his best non-asexual Michael impersonation… and he does that well! And the Easy Bake indie house production is not impressive, but not ingratiating, lacking the theatricality of her debut that depending on the day was either heart-warming or death by cheese & sugar induced artery blockage. But the fact remains: this is kind of an uninteresting song with a dull hook and two artists I love not finding far too compromising a medium for both of them.
[5]

Anthony Easton: Grande’s seeking of the hip and the populist combined with that machine milled gleam of a voice is a great pleasure — I am not sure The Weeknd’s prosyction is treating it right.
[6]

Thomas Inskeep: “Problem” is aces, and “Break Free” is blah, and this is on the former end of the Ariana Grande scale, all throbbing surfaces and gleaming propulsion. Grande brings a certain innocence to the line “and if in the moment I bite my lip” that makes me believe her, absolutely; she may play at being dirty, but it’s just play. She leaves the heavy lifting to the Weeknd, who sings about “the pressure between your hips,” a little dirty but still teasingly so. Twenty years ago this would’ve been by Mariah Carey featuring Joe, but this is better than that would’ve been. (And Grande’s got much better control of her pipes than Carey has ever had.) I recently saw the My Everything album referred to as “EDM&B,” which is a nice summation of the vibe of “Love Me Harder” — and also a tidy summation of Pop Music 2014. Right now, Ariana Grande owns that sweet spot.
[8]

Katherine St Asaph: I have listened to this thing a metric zillion times (I reviewed the record) and I still can’t decide whether it’s far dirtier or far cleaner than it sounds. Abel peddles his personal sleaze brand then goes on about “the pressure between your hips” (think about it) but a chorus later is like “what do I do if I can’t figure it out?” — is there just that little action to his talk? Is he the cad she’ll leave her guy for if he doesn’t love fuck aargh her harder? Is it vulnerability, fake vulnerability, bad writing? Grande’s droll blank gleam and the slick “Do What U Want” throb reveal nothing. Even Britney was never this coy.
[7]

Edward Okulicz: This is a very strange attempt to marry the ethereal to the purely carnal. It’s not entirely unsuccessful, but thoughts of mere flesh while flying through the sky is really more Britney’s wheelhouse; Grande’s performing persona still feels as if it’s locked a few years behind the woman she is. The Weeknd obviously has the capacity to do dirty for both partners in a duet, but here he’s toned it down, like a skeevy dude might do when trying to get what he wants out of a “good girl.” Actually he just confuses the narrative for me. I’ve never said this before and I may never again, but what this actually needed is Drake.
[7]

Alfred Soto: Grande’s wordless, stuttering anxiety honors Robyn — an unacknowledged influence on chart dance pop. If The Weeknd’s responsible for the beats, bless’em. His vocal adds nothing except marketing confusion.
[6]

Leela Grace: Like “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” this has that so-romantic-it’s-sinister intensity. Grande goes a little more sultry than usual — because big eyes or not, she’s a grown adult — and The Weeknd refrains from calling anyone ‘dead inside’ and their meeting in the middle is beautiful. This reach is as close as we’ll get to vulnerability from either artist, who despite their differences both exist at a kind of skewed remove from traditional Star Presence. Also, I want to be wrapped up forever in those blurry-neon-light sonics.
[8]

Will Adams: That vacuum bass accounts for about 90% of why I keep returning to this (and, if we’re getting technical, The Weeknd’s bleating is -7%). It threatens the entire sonic field, even the kick drum it’s sidechained to, but that makes it the perfect complement to Grande’s breathy vocals. The lyrics read ambiguous, but the bass shades in more than enough meaning.
[7]

Brad Shoup: Sorry to be all smarmy, but in this Age of Instagram and Twitter, it’s nice to have a little mystery, even if it’s just mushmouthed lyrics. Sadly, she’s loud and clear on this reboot of “Do What U Want,” with lite-EDM pulse lofting her into a scratch chorus. It’s four minutes that sound like two, and neither person is going remotely hard.
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Reader average: [7.83] (6 votes)

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One Response to “Ariana Grande ft. The Weeknd – Love Me Harder”

  1. I really like Leela’s take; it’s cool to highlight similarities between the two as well as differences