The Problem with “Problem”

Today I ran some errands, and I managed to listen to “Problem” by Ariana Grande featuring Iggy Azalea the whole time because every radio station was playing it.  And I do have to admit it’s a pretty catchy song, despite a few…um, problems with it.  Regardless, let’s call it #PhillipsSongOfTheDay.

The synthed-saxophone beats and Iggy Azalea really make this song POP; both give the song a very spirited effervescence.  They make you shake your head (or booty…if that’s your thing), and make you want to throw your hands up in the air and forget about your cares.  After all, it causes you to “realize [you’ve] got one less problem” after listening to the song.  Iggy Azalea especially has this great confidence and attitude in her rap; she seems like a cool chick to hang out with (you should check out her new album, The New Classic).  The sax really pushes the song through, giving it a good beat and rhythm to dance to.

“Problem,” by Ariana Grande featuring Iggy Azalea


However, I do have two main critiques for this song.  First, we absolutely have no idea what Ariana Grande is singing.  I mean, this may not be a big deal, given the fact this is a song more meant for the beat, not the lyrics.  However, it does become a problem for me because when you look up the lyrics, you realize she is singing words that you couldn’t even imagine her saying.  For example, in the prechorus/hook she sings at 0:29, I thought she was saying “heaven is a place where [blah blah, something I couldn’t understand],” and she’s actually saying:

Head in the clouds
Got no weight on my shoulders
I should be wiser
And realize that I’ve got

Like, when I googled those lyrics I was like, “Damn, really?  That’s what’s going on?  Okay…”  Ariana Grande really needs to work on her diction.  I mean, we can understand Iggy Azalea, which somewhat allows for Iggy Azalea to upstage Grande.

The other issue I have with this song is a simple production decision point.  While Max Martin and Shellback are like music gods (they co-wrote/produced hits like Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” and “I Knew You Were Trouble.,” Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok,” P!nk’s “So What” and “Who Knew,” etc.), I have to say I disagree with what they did in the ten seconds after Iggy Azalea’s rap (2:20-2:30).  They pull back after Iggy Azalea raps “I’ve got 99 problems but you won’t be one, like what!” to an almost complete stop.  It’s rather an unfortunate 180, because they got their audience dancing along, jamming out for two and half minutes, then we’re left in an awkward dead space.  They should have just gone right into the prechorus/hook of “head in the clouds.”  That would have really kept the pace of the song, and let us continue on with our dance party.  Other than that, the production is pretty much phenomenal; as I said before, the sax really drives the song and the beats make you want to get up and forget about your problems.

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