Today’s artists all start with an “A.” But who among them will earn one?
Josh Winters: And just like that, I’m gay again.
Katherine St Asaph: Overproduction kills; the verse is continually interrupted by someone making lewd sounds with a Speak and Spell, and the chorus is crowded where it should be throbbing. But elsewhere, there’s atmosphere, and it’s deadly palpable.
Alfred Soto: Many colleagues love Dangerous Woman, and after the title track and this single I’m still not hearing what they do. I suppose Grande’s decision to sing the verses in a worn soprano evokes the Mariah Carey of “Touch My Body,” adduced in a line also alluding to Elvis. The chorus is more urgent despite itself. This is a pro forma electropop, with none of Carly Rae Jepsen’s jangled nerves or Demi Lovato’s immersion in the physical.
Lauren Gilbert: I love the breathy intro; it showcases Ariana’s vocal talents, and is the sexiest thing she’s ever released, the beat pulsing underneath like a heartbeat. The bass drops in with the chorus and that magic is lost; a lighter hand would have been better here. Even the music video matches, transitioning from purple-tinged desert scenes to Getting Down In Da Club. The “ooo-ooo-oooh” hook is perfect; not every song needs to be a club banger, and this one could be so much more.
Taylor Alatorre: Yeah, we get it, Ariana is no way “dangerous” and likely never will be. Neither is Halloween, but that doesn’t stop thousands of grown-ass adults from dressing as Sexy Vampires and Slutty Cacodaemons every year. Maybe the costume metaphor is a bit too on-the-nose given the album cover, but still, you gotta know those ears are there for a reason. Point is, by now Ariana is well beyond the need to prove her maturity to anyone. She’s in better command of her voice than ever, and she’s carved out a stable niche for herself in the pop universe: the Aguilera-level talent who’s able to stay on top of emerging trends. On this song, she winds herself around a blocky synthwave pattern while prodding us with little subversions and ironies — solving a “Before and After” puzzle with Elvis and Mariah lyrics, and belting out her desire for secrecy in the most public manner possible. The Weeknd wishes he could still make pseudo-danger sound this fun.
Ryo Miyauchi: Ariana hasn’t been great with confidentiality on record. Her vocal style has best suited all-out declarations, like her last straight-up synth-pop banger, the Zedd-produced “Break Free.” So it stumps me when she sells her want to “let’s keep it secret” on her synth-heavy follow-up “Into You” and somehow succeeds. And oh, she tries: she resorts to whispers and sighs while the beat pounds muted and muffled. But this is an Ariana song, where resistance is eventually proven futile in the shape of belted vocals and a sizzling drop. The difference here is that the tension of silence plays more important to deliver the thrilling confession — “I’m so into you” — than the big release. For perhaps the first time with Ariana, “Into You” is about keeping a secret as much as it is about revealing them.
Will Adams: In which Grande calls on the dark pulse of “Love Me Harder” while sharpening everything around it to lethal levels. The chorus synthbass churns up a tempest and is one of my favorite sounds in pop music this year, but Grande stands at the ready to hold attention in the quieter moments. When she sings how she’s “waiting for you to make a move… before I make a move,” it’s convincing, and for the first time in any of her singles, there are real stakes.
Patrick St. Michel: It always takes time for people the best way they should approach something new. Ariana Grande’s “Break Free” was the sound of EDM bandwagoning, a collab with Zedd that sounded like…well, Zedd, which isn’t bad on its own. But it totally erased anything interesting about Grande in favor of this is what young people are listening to now, we gotta do it! “Into You” improves immensely on the EDM formula, avoiding the painfully obvious — this is, the part where, the drop comes — in favor of actual tension, which makes the hook (and Grande’s skippy invocation of the title) all the more memorable.
Edward Okulicz: Couldn’t believe at first listen that Grande hadn’t already released a song called “Into You.” Glad she hadn’t as this is nearly the ideal of the concepts (both of being into someone, and of being Ariana Grande). I love how the chorus’s lyrical hook is part Elvis, part Fall Out Boy, part Mariah. I love how the haze of the electropop sounds like it’s hiding something like the scandal the lyrics evoke. And most of all, it’s a delight how Grande’s been allowed to do it herself without some kind of gross cameo from someone else to underline the sexiness of it when she does it fine herself.
Danilo Bortoli: In a year in which pop music seems to revolve around conceptualism (Beyoncé and Rihanna act as proof), Ariana Grande is one of the most reliable pop stars we have right now precisely because she is who pop music wants her to be. She has been the manic pixie dream girl and the heartbreaker (all at once) but, currently, she is Christina Aguilera in her Back to Basics era (minus the botched production). Yet, “Into You” makes all these comparisons seem utterly irrelevant. This is one of her simplest songs. The narrative? Infatuation, not love. The production? It is predictable, yet predictability is underrated when it comes to pop music. It’s also as urgent as flares are supposed to be. And, as one would expect, Max Martin is in here, yet “Into You” is by no means “perfect pop”. It is, in fact, more than that. “Into You” is supposed to depict that very specific scenario that comes with those early stages of infatuation: having no specific time, place or consequences to worry about. It’s deeply cliché of course. This can’t last: it is step to maturity after all. Someone will have to deal with what is to come — the night after, the consequences — later. For that, there is always replay.
Cassy Gress: I’m still not sure that I buy Ariana Grande as a “dangerous woman,” and those “wooooooo”s right after “been waiting for you to make a move” sound less like her and more like her lover deciding to show off his falsetto for some reason, but “so into you, into you, into you” is exactly what falling into bed sounds like. And those spectacularly gritty synths sound like, well, like a sandblasted metal guardrail on the side of the road at night, which I am told is not actually a thing that exists but there you go.
Brad Shoup: Grande’s cadence on the hook is, essentially, iconic. The verses are low-energy because, I guess, what wouldn’t be, but that vocalization on the two and four could’ve been boosted. But it’s one of those hits where the tide’s coming for the chorus. I guess that’s what usually makes something a hit.
William John: Ariana Grande has always struck me as extremely self-aware, or, at the very least, as woke as the rest of us to the idiosyncrasies of pop and meme culture to which she herself belongs. In that context, I wonder whether the stress she places on the “t” of “on it” in the chorus is a folded-arms response to the reputation she has gathered these past few years as Her Majesty the Marble-Mouthed. The cleaner enunciation is not the only improvement here from her more recent output. Muscular synths are thrown around the place like a Berghain bodyguard wielding a sledgehammer, and just when you’re ready to catch your breath, a blindsiding middle eight of laser beams stops you in your tracks. The way the coquettish come-on “a little less conversation, a little more touch my body” is delivered has me ransacking my drawers for my own set of bunny ears.
Peter Ryan: Maybe it makes sense that they waited until the weather’s moving from “pleasantly warm” to ugh just hot in many parts of the American market to give this the push it deserves. It’s blessedly a dry heat, toasted crisp but not brittle, skating along a razor’s edge with lava on either side, putting across “danger” and “focus” much more convincingly than, well, you know… I need more opportunities to embarrass myself in public to this so let’s get it on all the formats/algorithms/however songs end up piped into spaces yesterday thanks. Bonus: I can understand every single word.