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October 02, 2014 - Image 8

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2B - Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

2B - Thursday, October 2, 2014 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

baked.buzzed.bored.
in this series, three daily arts writers in
varying states of mind visit the same
place and write about their experiences.
this week's destination:
'SNL' Season Premiere

4

What's she hiding?

The problem with
Ariana Grande.

Pop superstar's
persona lacks
indentifiable
it' factor
ByGIBSONJOHNS
DailyArts Writer
Ever since she dropped
"Problem," the lead single
for her sophomore album
My Everything, Ariana
Grande has been unavoidable
throughout most of 2014.
She's had three top-10 singles
and a No.,l album, she opened
this year's VMAs and has
appeared on nearly every
major late-night and morning
show, including as the musical
guest on the season premiere
of "Saturday Night Live"
this past weekend. It's easy
to look at Ariana Grande's
skyrocketing fame and
success and blindly assume
that she must possess all the
elements of a superstar. But
in reality, despite her label
(intelligently) pulling out the
stops to ensure her success,
it's plain to see that that's
simply not the case.
Let's start with Grande's
debut album Yours Truly.
Piggybacking off of her
popularity as a star on two
Nickelodeon shows and the
positive reception of her
Mac Miller-assisted debut
single, "The Way," the album
shot to No. 1 and was widely
praised for its '90s R&B
sound. People said she was
the second coming of Mariah
Carey. Though the rest of
the album didn't yield any
other genuine hits, there was
an overwhelming amount
of excitement' surrounding
Grande. She won New Artist
of the Year at the 2013
American Music Awards
following a stellar, soulful
performance of album track
"Tattooed Heart." The retro
performance garnered her
a standing ovation and put
her powerful voice in -the
spotlight. She stole the show
on one of music's biggest
nights and had a lot of people
highly anticipating her next
move.
Fast forward to April of
this year with the release
of "Problem." Quickly, and
deservedly, the song shot to
No. 3 on the Hot 100 and was
immediately inescapable.
Though her team may have
"taken a risk" by launching
her second album with a
track that didn't even feature
its singer on the chorus (Big
Sean whispers it), it still
ticked all the boxes. Expertly
produced with an on-trend
saxophone backing (see:
Jason Derulo's "Talk Dirty")?
Check. Lyrics penned by none
other than pop-mastermind
Max Martin? Check. Features
by not one, but two of

mainstream hip hop's biggest
names (Iggy Azalea and Big
Sean)? Check.
Listen, I'm not claiming
that everything released
to Top 40 radio these days
isn't similarly calculated to
ensure success. But whereas
someone like Rihanna seems
heavily involved in making
those calculations to ensure
her perspective remains
intact, I can't help but feel
as if Grande probably isn't
involved in making many of
those decisions. What is her
point of view? Does she even
have a signature sound? She
all but abandoned the '90s
R&B vibe that garnered her
so much praise for Yours
Truly for dancefloor-ready
beats that fit right in with
everything else on the radio
these days. I acknowledge
that artists, especially ones
as young as Grande, need to
evolve their sound to .keep
things exciting for their fans
and to stay current, but My
Everything represents such
a change in sound that, in
my mind, the Mariah Carey
comparisons don't really
hold up anymore. It seems
as though Grande (read: her
label) decided on a regression
of originality in order to
achieve a progression in
fame.
"Break Free," another
incredible pop song that
features EDM-powerhouse
Zedd, was the second release
from My Everything and
represented an even further
departure from her original
sound than "Problem" did,
while simultaneously proving
to be equally as pervasive.
"Love Me Harder" is perhaps
the best song on the album
and is Grande's upcoming
third single. It's a sexy Max
Martin-written track and
will surely be another smash
for her.
Though individually
these songs are undoubtedly
remarkable pop confections,
together they fail to represent
a cohesive image of Grande as
an artist and seem to be the
result of a by-the-numbers
approach to achieving pop
success. Again, this isn't all
that unusual in the world of
pop music, but as becomes
easily evident during her live
performances and interviews,
this may be a result of
Grande's apparent lack of
distinguishable personality
and stage presence.
Most of Grande's live
performances lately go
like this: the universally
recognizable first few
seconds of one of her hits
plays before Grande is
revealed at the center of the
stage on a raised platform.
She's wearing thigh-high
go-go boots and some sort of
extravagant leotard, her hair
done up in her signature high
ponytail. After being helped

down the stairs by one of
her many back-up dancers,
she breaks into dance during
the song's chorus. Her
dancing is lackadaisical, and
her eyes exhibit a deer-in-
the-headlights discomfort.
Probably as a result of her
extensive dancing, she
sounds out of breath and
fails to enunciate throughout
most of the verses. She might
even yell out a "Let's go!" to
try to get the crowd into it.
For the money note, Grande
almost nails it as she brings
out some Aguilera-esque arm
waves. As a viewer, though
you are trying your hardest
to enjoy the performance (a
song this deliciously catchy
deserves an equally amazing
performance), you likely
feel just as uncomfortable
as Grande does. Comparing
this to her aforementioned
American Music Awards
performance from last year
and this is particularly
disappointing.
You don't have to look
very far for examples of
these performances. This
happened at the VMAs, the
iHeartRadio Festival and
"X Factor" Australia, among
others (let's not even get
into Rihanna laughing at her
in the audience during her
iHeartRadio Music Awards
performance). In interviews,
most notably with Matt Lauer
on "TODAY," she displays
a similar disinterest in her
surroundings and spits out
repetitive answers to every
question posed at her. Though
this initially comes as a
shock, it falls directly in line
with the rumors of her diva-
like behavior and continuous
scorning of fans. None of
it is shockingly offensive
or disrespectful, but one
can't help but think that the
predictable nature of her
breakout year is an attempt
by her label to distract us
from her lack of the "it"
factor. Where is the spark and
passion in her eyes? In the
year following the uniquely
outrageous breakthrough of
Miley Cyrus, Grande's feels
especially uninteresting.
Miley may have lacked a bit of
taste, but at least she sparked
discussion and made sure
that every little thing she did
represented her point of view
and wacky personality.
Grande's music may
represent some of the year's
best Top 40 offerings, and
the general public may be
embracing her for what her
label wants the world to see
her as - a flawless pop starlet
whose talents and looks
check off all the boxes -
but does "she genuinely have
everything it takes to be a
convincing global superstar?
The answer may still be
unclear.
As for yours truly, I'm not
so convinced.

0

I know I'm high because my voice sounds like a baby pterodactyl
and IDGAF. Aidy Bryant is pretending to be a woman with freckles.
One of the SNL football players has a really funny lisp. Am I a bad per-
son for laughing? IDGAF. (But maybe I do?) I'm drinking water from
a mason jar. WHAT IS HAPPENING ON THE TELEVISION? These
weird superheroes are patting their crotches and it's awful. Weekend
Update without Cecily is nothing to me. My gurl Aidy is carrying this
show on her back, we should all bow down. I've got 99 problems and
Ariana Grande not singing 'Problem' is one of them. This medication
commercial is really heavy rn. It's been going on for probably 20 years.
OK, we're back. More football ughhh. Gasp they just made an offensive
and ill-timed domestic violence joke. THIS IS VERY RACIST. We all
agree this is the worst SNL episode ever. Chris Pratt you look very good
in that suit but you keep messing up your lines. And now Ariana is sing-
ing with a guy with insane hair.-WHO IS THIS GUY? Is ita helmet of
hair? I'm calling it a hairmet. Hairmet. I Googled it, weird-haired guy
is in The Weeknd. We all said Erika would be mad that we didn't know.
Thank god it's over. Such a disappointment, Lorne. Maya ordered cook-
ies and now we are watching "Pocahontas." Let's forget that episode
ever happened.
- DAILY ARTS WRITER
As I write this, I keep confusing this with the other night that we sat
on Valerie's couch and watched something random on her TV (it was
"Hocus Pocus." And it was last night.) But now we are watching the *Sea-
son 40 premiere of NBC's "Saturday Night Live."* And it's truly awful.
Where is Andy Samberg? Where is Seth Meyers? Where is Bill Hader?
Where is Maya Rudolph? Where is Keenan Thompson? (never mind,
there Keenan is). But seriously, "SNL" has got a lot of work to do this
year. At one point, I may or may not have screamed "WHAT IS THIS,
AMATEUR HOUR?" That's where we're at. Shape up, "SNL," cause you
look like MadTV right now.
-ALEC STERN
The time was a little past 11 p.m. on a Sunday night. The setting was
Valerie's livingroom - a"(500) Days of Summer" poster above the couch,
a "Friends" poster above the TV and a general smell of optimism (mari-
juana) lingering behind every door. You unlock these doors with the key
of imagination. Beyondthemis another dimension: a dimensionofsound,
a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You're moving into a land of
both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You've just crossed
over into the ... Alec is convinced this is the worst episode of."SNL" he's
ever seen. As soon as Michael Che shows up in Cecily Strong's old chair
behind the Weekend Update desk, he screams - intoning afleck of Jerry
Seinfeld's general sense of outrage - "What is this? Amaeteur Hour??
Amy Poehler and Tina Fey sat in those chairs once. I can't take it any-
more." It's all very meta and depressing until we realize Aidy Bryant is
carrying every aspect of the show on her back. Every time she shows up
on screen, Valerie sounds like she's going to throw up with excitement,
vomiting the words "she's just so talented" onto Chris Pratt's face. But as
we get deeper into the sketches - a Marvel franchise based around shop-
ping carts, a "Key & Peele" ripoff where imaginary NFL players recite
their names and then (so #edgy) the laws they've broken - it becomes
clear Pratt is being buried behind a barrage of bad writing. He stands
there quietly wearing the He-Man wig as Ariana Grande does a weird,
slow version of "Break Free" while all of us think of Andy Dwyer ... and
what could have been.

4

- AKSHAY SETH

IF YOU THINK
FOLLOWING US5IS A
WASTE OF TIME...
YOU'RE #WRONG!
@MICHIGANDAILY

a

TRAILER REVIEW

4

The trailer of "Gone Girl,"
directed by David Fincher
("The Social Network") and
starring
Ben Affleck f
("Argo") and
Rosamund Gone Girl
Pike ("The
World's 20th Century Fox
End") oozes
profound
sentiments of devotion and
care as a man steps onto a
stage in front of a crowd to
tell them that his wife has
disappeared. His voice isn't
heavy, but you can feel the
emotion behind the words.
The emotion permeates
through this clip to the next
few shots, which show the
couple in love, and the shots
almost seem to waltz to the
accompanying music of the
trailer.
Suddenly, however, some-
thing's not right. The couple:
fights; there's a fair bit of

tension as she exclaims that
it can't go on like this and he
is implied to throw her on the
floor in rage. Then, you see
shots of him standing next to
a photo of his missing wife,
grinning as he does it. The
loving, tender sentiment now
sours, turning into suspicion
as we get the feeling that this
man is struggling to make the
world see that he did not kill
his wife. The emotion doesn't

go away and the trailer ends,
leaving the viewer curious
and involved. The sudden
change in emotion juxta-
posed with the uniformity
in the tender feeling of the
soundtrack comes across as
eerie and is the defining ele-
ment of this preview.
Did he really kill his wife?
After seeing this trailer, you'll
desperately want toknow.
-MAYANK MATHUR

a

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