Friday, August 3rd, 2018

Ariana Grande – God is a Woman

And life is a… temple…?

Anna Suiter: Is “God is a woman” a sex song? Is it sacrilegious? Does it matter? Not really, in the end. It’s absolutely sexual. It doesn’t shy away from that. It’s the sexuality in that makes it a pointed jab at her critics, especially those who say that she’s always been less than mature. This isn’t something that feels forced. It’s celebratory. Even with that sexual undertone it still celebrates women in a way that doesn’t feel exclusionary from the lyrics and tone of the song. It’s meant to feel a little bit like you’re in church, at least at parts (choirs tend to do that). Even if you can’t usually dance to a hymn, there’s something in this one that makes you move whether you really want to or not. Who even knew that was possible?

Katherine St Asaph: Points, in theory, for actually going with the title instead of shoving it behind, I dunno, “(God Is A) Woman.” And the conceit is audacious enough, even though it’s essentially “I Invented Sex.” But God frowns upon lazy campfire strums, particularly when the vocals are way too overdressed in processing for the minimal surroundings. I assume Max Martin et al wanted the song to build, but Ariana’s vocals only make sense after the two-minute mark, when all the parts are in place.

Alex Clifton: What I expected: a rewrite of “God Is a DJ” but, like, God is a lady DJ? What I got: the female response to “Take Me to Church” but, like, actually sexy.

Alfred Soto: If I believed in God and thought gender mattered for deities, I’d agree with Ariana one hundred percent. God prefers fresher beats and approaches, regardless of gender.

Ryo Miyauchi: It’s not that I don’t believe Ari’s claim that “he sees the universe when I’m in company,” but it’s just not sticking no matter how many different angles she tries to throw it. The languid guitar riffs already don’t make it easy to make this any more tangible, but the lyrics are an awkward, formless thing to trace without a percussive bounce to its cadence, including that important titular line. When she doubles up on the trap triplets, it’s also not the most graceful rhyme. Those “yeah” ad libs thankfully provide some grounding, though it’s unfortunate if that is the sole hook for a song titled “God Is a Woman” after it’s done.

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: It’s both a relief and a disappointment that this is a midtempo sex jam instead of the glorious piece of imperial, churchy megapop implied by the title– a relief because Ariana always does this sort of thing with extreme skill, but a disappointment because “God is a Woman” stops just short of great, hemmed in by a certain lack of ambition that leaves it more a pleasant trifle than a career-defining smash. But maybe I’m just grading on a curve here– even Ariana’s trifles are more imposing than most pop singers’ grand statements, and this does everything it needs to do to earn a spot in the pantheon of pseudo-holy pop.

Matias Taylor: Max Martin, who has enjoyed perhaps the most consistent stay at the forefront of popular music of any songwriter and producer ever, has spent his career synthesizing diverse sounds and styles, from bubblegum (“Oops!…I Did It Again”) to indie rock (“Since U Been Gone”) to reggae pop (“One More Night”), stripping them down to their essential ingredients and transforming them into slices of pop genius. On this track, the product of his and his trusted collaborators’ efforts is like nothing they’ve ever been involved with: there are echoes of classic rock, trap, and gospel, often simultaneously; there is the daring, instant-classic lyrical conceit; and there is that video, impossible to look away from. But the woman behind the microphone (who is also listed as the first songwriter) is the real secret ingredient: this is Ariana Grande’s golden moment, where she fully embraces the creative potential her work hinted at previously. Like a true deity, both her vocals and the soundscape seem like they are part of the same eternal creation; she luxuriates in the chorus, at one with those decadent, gorgeous guitars; she effortlessly switches up her cadence and tone to match the chopped up pseudo trap verses; she conjures up a choir and then single-handedly overpowers it through sheer passion. Ariana has toyed with lustful abandon before, but here she becomes the very embodiment of carnal desire, with a mystical conception of her own sexuality. The verses contain a familiar mix of come-ons and self-empowerment, but this time re-contextualized into an examination of sex and gender; this is not just a song about the power of eroticism, but also about knowing your worth and demanding what you want, all wrapped in a perfect metaphor. It’s a stunning evolution, one befitting of the superb modern pop that brings it to life courtesy of the genre’s best contemporary producers, songwriters, and singer. Dream teams don’t always reach their full potential, but there might just have been some kind of divine intervention on the day they sat down to write this one.

Stephen Eisermann: Sultry R&B-pop hybrid suits Ariana better than anything else because of her natural phrasing and vocal inflections, but this song in particular, with its shifts in pace and instrumentation, feels tailor made for her. Though the title feels a tad click-baity, it’s extremely fitting considering that this song feels like the event single we’ve all been waiting for: this will mark the transition into superstardom for Ariana. It’s bombastic, catchy, unique, a bit corny, and, above all else, impactful.

Abdullah Siddiqui: I’ve been forced to give this song a lot of thought. It genuinely confuses me. There’s nothing really remarkable or innovative about it. But I can’t get the damn thing out of my head. Living with it for a couple weeks, I’ve had to re-examine my criteria for a great song. Maybe a great song doesn’t need to be inventive and elaborate and skillful. Maybe it just needs to sound good in my ear-holes. And that, it so does.

Reader average: [5.76] (17 votes)

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10 Responses to “Ariana Grande – God is a Woman”

  1. couldn’t get my blurb ready in time—very sad—but I would have given it a 9; Matias and Anna summed up my thoughts beautifully. a definite watershed moment for Ariana

  2. Never thought a song with this kind of title could be so boring

  3. Abdullah’s blurb gets at how Max Martin longevity has happened: the man finds the melodies. Sure, his collaborators play a strong role, but nearly universally, his singles for them are unlike their works with other producers, and it’s in that gift for melody. Max somehow knows how to keep updating his core compositions so that they don’t feel dated.

    How well can a song be covered in other genres? Max Martin songs certainly have beautiful arrangements, but they work even without them.

  4. Never in a million years I thought that Ariana was going to be the one giving a breath of fresh air to female pop music especially visually.

    The song is ok but the music video is all sorts of brilliant.

  5. I have a hard time understanding why this got a 7.22 but Dangerous Woman got a 3.88. Perhaps her sexuality wasn’t as believable then?

  6. could it be that…the songs were scored by two almost entirely different groups of people?

  7. it seems I scored Dangerous Woman *higher*

  8. dang I’d forgotten DW scored that low. even the [6]-[7] I’d have given then would barely push it over a 4 average

  9. An opinion: because this is actually good and DW was not? (FWIW, I would have given this a [5], but I gave DW a [3]

  10. ) – close paren because it will bother me otherwise