Performer: "Side to Side" is currently #4 on the Hot 100. Grande's biggest hit to date, 2014's "Problem," peaked at #2 on the Hot 100.
Writers: Max Martin, Savan Kotecha, Alexander Kronlund, Ilya Salmanzadeh, Onika Maraj, Ariana Grande.
Title: A phrase that loosely describes the main idea of being pulled by two opposing camps.
Structure: Intro / Verse / Chorus / Verse / Chorus / Bridge / Verse / Chorus / Bridge
Points of Interest:
1) The first four bars of the the chorus are arranged as a sparse break, rather than giving the traditional high-energy peak moment that listeners expect when a song hits the chorus. It's an interesting move, in the sincere sense of the word. Part of the reason that this works here is that it's such an unexpected move that it grabs our attention anyway. However, my guess is that if more songs start being arranged like this, we will find it uninteresting pretty quickly. But for now, we still get to have an "up" moment at the chorus because a chorus break feels pretty novel. I also think this works as an overall song structure because it lets the rest of the song be the "up" moment. I can almost hear the question being posed by the producers: why have most of the song be lower-energy, speckled with moments of high energy, when we could just flip it? The song maximizes the high-energy by flipping the verse/chorus relationship.
2) The Ariana Grande story and the Nicki Minaj comments don't seem to go together. Grande tells the following story, essentially: 1) I want you, 2) my friends don't like you, 3) I'm in this strange limbo, pulled from side to side, 4) let's do this in secret (!). Then Nicki Minaj comes in talking about riding a dick bicycle, which is a pretty fun way of saying that particular thing, but maybe still not all that on-message. The only reason I can see for including Minaj's part at all is to filthy-up the song while letting Grande stay on-brand as the sweet girl next door. Grande gets someone else to be gross for her, and to give some edge to her song.
3) Nicki Minaj uses her name as threesome wordplay for like the 8,000th time ever. Does she do this in every song? It was sort of mildly clever the first time, but now its clearly just a crutch. I do love another one of her lines, though. "I give zero fucks and I got zero chill in me," seems like it contradicts itself, but actually ends up pointing at a very specific personality type, and points in an interesting way at that.
4) Here's the kind of mess you get into sometimes when you break the songwriting rules and it's cool all the way until you hit an unexpected wall. The unexpected wall in this case is trying to end a song on a chorus that is half break. The full arrangement comes in for the second four bars of the chorus, but then what? You end it suddenly (and awkwardly)? The Swedes tried to solve this problem by tacking on another dick bicycle to close the song, but to my ears ending on a bridge repeat is even more awkward than the alternative. I don't know what a better solution could be in this case, but I don't feel settled with this one.