Dangerous Woman

Ariana Grande

One of the best things that happened to 22-year-old Ariana Grande ó inheritor of Mariah Careyís crown as soul-popís youngest multi-octave vocalist ó was Saturday Night Live. As it did with Taylor Swift, the comedy show allowed the usually stiff live performer to demonstrate another side of herself. Grande has opened her jazzier vocal sound and found more minimalist production values that make her lyrical emotionalism shine on Dangerous Woman, her third album.

ďAll I want to do is fall in deep,Ē she sings with a soft, strong quaver against a murmured syn-bass line and finger-snap percussion on Into You. Itís a torrid track whose chorus blossoms into full-blown electro-disco.

Grande maintains cool but mighty distance on the slick faux-blues of the title song, on which her quick-speak and multitracked runs are a highlight. Side to Side offers a dubby, dance-hall vibe and a naughty Nicki Minaj rap, and Leave Me Lonely is, weirdly, an even better pairing. The gruff-voiced Macy Gray and the usually smooth Grande go toe-to-toe creating sleek soul thatís scuffed up like pricey patent leather after a mud storm. Brava, girl.

ó A.D. Amorosi

The Philadelphia Inquirer

Beyond the Ice Limit

Preston & Child

Douglas Preston and Lincoln Childís latest Gideon Crew thriller is a sequel to The Ice Limit. In that novelís ambiguous ending, a ship was torn apart, a meteorite was submerged in the ocean and hints of doom were raised. Now itís up to a new vessel to assess the damage.

Gideon Crew has little time left to live, and when he learns the truth behind his recruitment by Eli Glinn, heís a bit surprised and terrified. Glinn was one of the original members of the meteorite retrieval team, and he feels responsible for the number of deaths. He tells Crew the meteorite was an organism, and when it sank, it planted itself like a seed at the bottom of the ocean floor. It continues to grow, and if itís not destroyed soon, the entire planet could rupture.

Glinn wants Crew to utilize his expertise with engineering and nuclear weapons to visit the site and kill the organism. When the new team members arrive at the location of the meteorite, theyíre horrified by what they discover.

Preston & Child take elements from classic horror and sci-fi films and novels and spin them together to write what begins as an action adventure, but soon delves into paranoid terror. Readers who enjoyed The Ice Limit will love this follow-up, and those unfamiliar with the original novel will have no problem with this story.

≠ó Jeff Ayers

Associated Press

If Iím Honest

Blake Shelton

If his time on The Voice has done anything for Blake Shelton, it has sent him further down the road toward crowd-pleasing, show-stopping songs.

Thereís plenty of that on If Iím Honest. And itís a country road heís traveling on ó with hard-to-miss overtones from his high-profile personal life.

The least subtle is a duet, Go Ahead and Break My Heart, which he co-wrote with Gwen Stefani, his current love interest. It seems reasonable to interpret it as a move-on song for both as they put their respective divorces behind them.

The album alternates between the swelling show-stoppers and ďstraight outta that dirty SouthĒ self-consciousness thatís a little heavy on the John Deere tractor references. Some Shelton fans will love that, of course, but it feels like the Oklahoma native has been spending a lot of time explaining the South at Hollywood cocktail parties.

Itís when he settles down and just sings that Shelton delivers music that could last. A love song called One Night Girl swells with emotional sincerity, and Saviorís Shadow, a gospel song about faith, also feels like he means it.

Shelton, at his best, is a country boy who tells you just what heís thinking and has a knack for bringing the house down. And if heís honest, some of it might have staying power.

ó Scott Stroud

Associated Press