Thursday, October 18th, 2018

Ariana Grande – Breathin

In lieu of the real Jukebox entry for this song, we’re just going to show you a picture of a pig.


Tobi Tella: When Sweetener was released, a lot of people were taken aback by how weird it was. Some people were mad, but I see it as artistic evolution beyond the fun pop music she’s been making for years. “Breathin” sounds more like her old work then most of the album, but the subject matter is decidedly mature, talking about her struggle with anxiety. I love the repetition of a chorus and think it’s a powerful sentiment: sometimes you just need to take a step back and breathe. Especially after all the things that have happened to her, “Breathin” feels triumphant.

Edward Okulicz: For a pop star, Grande’s borne a huge amount of the brunt of other people’s pain, hatred and aggression, so I admire her so much for being able to both put it aside to deliver good pop singles over and over, and here, to work with her own tension to create a great single. There are women who would kill for this as a lead single and she just craps it out as single number three because she damn well can. “Breathin” is Sweetener‘s take on the “Into You” template, sure, but it mixes that track’s confident, erotic pulse with thick layers of anxiety. Rather than sensuous fulfilment, “Breathin” flirts with danger, with suffocation, but both melodically and lyrically conquers both — “keep breathing, breathing, breathing” is like a mantra, and it feels perfect right now in 2018. It’s a strong song to begin with, but it’s also the little moments in performance and production that help make it so good: the way the music drops out during the second chorus, the guitar solo that sounds like it’s struggling for air, Grande’s yelp of “no!” towards the end. These are all magnificent sounds deployed smartly. Grande’s untouchable but somehow performs with empathy and believability. If being a great pop star is writing or grabbing the best material and crushing the heck out of it, Grande’s got few equals at the moment.

Alfred Soto: Form, say hello to content. The high, striated vocal suggests anxiety even if her lyrics were less explicit. Terrific marriage of Swedish pop and stadium electronica tropes — check out that treated guitar solo.

Katie Gill: After the absolute banger status of “No Tears Left To Cry” and the sultry power anthem of “God Is A Woman,” it might surprise people that “Breathin” is…fairly conventional. It’s pretty much a middle of the album song, a dance pop song that seems tailor made to hang out on the Hot 100 for fifteen or so weeks just because that’s what halfway decent dance pop songs do these days. Still, it’s a fairly conventional banger about dealing with anxiety attacks, which is a sentence that I never thought I’d write, so I’ve got to give the song minor props on that alone.

Taylor Alatorre: To each their own, but being told to “just” keep breathing, over and over, doesn’t make me feel particularly relaxed. I’m supportive of the notion that songs addressing mental health struggles don’t have to be morbid and melancholy, but with lyrics like “all I need is to see your face,” “Breathin” can’t seem to decide if it wants to be an intro to CBT or an ode to the stabilizing force of a romantic partner. That the chorus defaults to the kind of all-consuming synthwave that defined previous stand-outs “Love Me Harder” and “Into You” points more toward the latter, which is where Ariana is more comfortable. Of special note is the bridge, featuring some submerged guitar wailing and nonsense murmurings that approximate what the agitated mind actually sounds like.

Vikram Joseph: “Breathin” might well be the first pop song about an anxiety attack since Shura’s “Nothing’s Real,” but the comparison doesn’t greatly flatter Ariana Grande. Shura’s song is an unusual, impressionistic depiction of a panic attack that landed her in the emergency department, instilled with a real sense of drama by its swooping, muscular art-disco throb. “Breathin,” meanwhile, is a fizzy bop which sounds like a concerted effort to provide Sweetener with at least one straightforward, radio-ready single; it’s perfectly enjoyable on its own terms, but sounds much too generic and assured to be an effective vehicle for what Grande really wants to talk about.

Pedro João Santos: Sweetener isn’t titled that for nothing: its cohesion draws from a holistic mood and its hedonistic, lush R&B settings, as bespoke mobiles for Ariana’s personal restoration and gratification. But it was promoted through “No Tears Left to Cry” and “God Is a Woman,” obvious outliers in a quirkier, more vaporous sequence — although never sore thumbs. Their synth-inebriated declarations, and more rigid structures, carve out a different corner in that ambience, like a menacing nocturnal world, a dark alley in the city leading right up to the psyche. “Breathin” is an emphatic part of that — the final piece in a tryptic of songs that are intrepid, urgent and combative in unique ways. While its predecessors block out sadness and sexism, this one exerts those forces more literally, drawing vivid outlines of anxiety and the need to attack it. It’s a triumph in how honest it is and how it transfers its energy to the music: its pulse and velocity increasing as concerns become overwhelming, the frenzy teased in the bridge and unleashed at the end. These are new angles from which Ariana can shape a sound she’s explored most similarly in “Love Me Harder” (though the tension there is purely sexual and less consistent), even if it’s the least musically distinct of the trifecta of singles (not to mention the album). Unfortunately,vin a song as well-rounded as “Breathin,” repeating the title consecutively doesn’t quite cut it, even if you can’t fight it lodging into your head. Considering the cerebral lyrics, that might be quid pro quo.

Stephen Eisermann: This track is without question the strongest song on the album and so fitting with everything Ariana’s been going through. She’s handled everything thrown her way with such poise and to have her spill her heart out and bravely tell us how anxious she’s been — to a banger of a beat, no less! — is so refreshing. There’s vocals, slick production, an awesome vibe — it all works and it works so, so well.

Anna Suiter: It feels right that the singles for Sweetener have led to here, a song about coping with anxiety in the only way you know how to. There’s honesty here, both in the need to keep going and the reluctance to maybe do what you’re being told to do. The song itself knows how to breathe, how to reassure, how to release tension where it might be too overwhelming otherwise. It manages to do all of that without feeling like a meditation, too.

Matias Taylor: “Breathin” is breathless at barely three minutes long yet perfectly paced and formulated, with the pre-chorus becoming louder and more frantic as she feels her “blood running,” then the metaphorical and musical anxiety breaks in the release of the chorus. It’s the kind of perfect marriage of sound and subject matter whose simplicity belies the underlying pop wizardry. Once Ariana loses herself in the bridge — “my my air, my my air,” words are barely necessary to describe such a feeling, and it starts to sound like a future signature song, one destined to be forever sung at karaoke bars, blasted on the car speakers, or jammed to alone in a bedroom on headphones as it provides a momentary reprieve from all the things that make it feel like the sky is falling. There’s a pop song subject matter in even the simplest, everyday sensation that, amplified by a melody sent from heaven and soaring production that rises meet it, turns into universal, transcendent truth.

Reader average: [5.54] (11 votes)

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

8 Responses to “Ariana Grande – Breathin”

  1. So boring. Her max Martin collaborations are so lifeless and uninspired. No Tears is the exception

  2. I feel like part of the reason some people complained about the lack of “bops” compared to Dangerous Woman is that the few Max Martin tracks on Sweetener are kind of… retreads. “God Is a Woman” is cut from a similar cloth of “Side to Side” and this is very much, as mentioned above, on the “Love Me Harder”/”Into You” dark-pop tip (and also uses I think one of the same drum loops in “Hold On We’re Going Home”). So it’s a bit been there done that.

    This is fine but I probably wouldn’t have scored it above a [6].

  3. Ariana release “Goodnight n Go” as a single challenge.

  4. yeah I didn’t blurb this because I couldn’t think of anything to say beyond “this sure is like a fifth single out of an album cycle”

  5. The title track needs to be the next single (and is the next most popular song on the album after the three singles) but her label won’t do it

  6. This isn’t Max Martin for the record, but Ilya isn’t all that far off

    Man, all the singles off this album have been horrible

  7. every future ariana grande single could sound like “bad decisions” and i’d be happy

  8. everytime needs to be a single but I feel like timing is… slightly inappopiate for some reason. title track seems like the best choice honestly.

    this song is still a 9 tho