Crushing comfort zone leads to ‘Problems’

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First Posted: 8/19/2014

The momentum that led to Ariana Grande’s success began in 2013. Grande began the transition from Nickelodeon star to pop princess with the Mac Miller-assisted track “The Way.” The 21 year-old then took to the national airwaves in a slew of TV performances; perhaps most notably her outing at the “American Music Awards.”

Grande had the talent, the look, and the fan base. All she needed was the hit song.

“She just got in with some amazing song writers,” her manager, Scooter Braun, told “Ralphie Tonight” last week on the red carpet of a movie he executive produced, “The Giver.” “She’s really opened up. The biggest thing we talked about when we went in for this album is, ‘We gotta get you out of your comfort zone. You gotta take yourself to a different place and push yourself.’ And she really did.”

That pep talk led to “Problem,” the first single from Grande’s sophomore LP, “My Everything.” The album drops August 22. Opposed to “The Way,” which drew comparisons to Mariah Carey-circa-1990’s, “Problem” is an in-your-face banger with a verse from Australian rapper Iggy Azalea. The song screams girl power but is tinged with grit and edge. Coupled with the assist from Azalea, one of the hottest rappers this summer, “Problem” has helped set Grande apart from her counterparts. It became her highest charting single to date, reaching number two on the Billboard Hot 100.

“She believed in (‘Problem’),” Braun said. “Once we said ‘Get out of your comfort zone,’ she knows what she wants. We pushed her, but she was ready for it.”

Other singles from Grande’s album include the Zedd-produced “Break Free” and “Best Mistake” which features rapper Big Sean.

“I think all the music that’s coming out… I think a lot of people are shocked with how incredible it is,” Braun noted. “And I think the best songs are the ones to come.”

Speaking of new music, Braun’s most famous client is probably Justin Bieber, who the music manager discovered on YouTube and helped turn in to an international star. Bieber has taken to Instagram to release short clips of music he has worked on in studio. While not revealing too much, Braun seemed to tip his hand that the pop star could drop songs before the end of the year.

“I think that might happen,” he said after hesitating for a moment. “Possibly, but not the way you’re expecting.”

I believe when he told me that, Braun was referring to the standard practice of an artist releasing a single to radio for airplay. Bieber’s last proper album to hit retail shelves was 2012’s “Believe,” which featured the hits “Boyfriend” and “Beauty and a Beat.”


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