Moving away from the 90s soul of her first record, Ariana Grande has worked overtime positioning herself as a dance diva with her sophomore effort, My Everything. Grande's Donna Summer dreams first cam true with the energetic Zedd collaboration, "Break Free," which skyrocketed her into the club stratosphere. Zedd's touches verge on cliche--especially the gunshot sounds during the intro and the indulgent EDM crash that closes the song--but "Break Free" has good pop bones, including an anthemic chorus, and a cheesiness that makes for a good time. (This song is dance around the house in your undies material for sure.)
"Love Me Harder" with The Weekend is a different beast. It takes itself much more seriously, and though the expansive electronics are reminiscent of what staple dance artists like Cher have been working lately, this single has a sexiness that never quite works. Not to mention, The Weekend's primary contribution is a melodramatic vocal that brings the track down.
Ariana Grande can do romantic material (see the excellent girl-group pop of "Tattooed Heart"), but she is at her best when she isn't trying so hard. "The Way," her first big single, worked because it never seemed she was hustling to be sexy; she and rapper Mac Miller had chemistry, and because of that their laid-back delivery oozed sensuality. Now that Grande has abandoned her retro classiness, she's at her best when she's having fun, whether that be the power pop of "Problem" or the alien beats of "Break Free." Otherwise, she can do better.