Number 3 on the Billboard Top 100 right now is “Problem” by Ariana Grande featuring Iggy Azalea and Big Sean. It’s the lead single from 20 year old Grande’s next album. Grande also an actress who plays Cat Valentine on the Nickelodeon shows Victorious and Sam & Cat. The song is about still having a thing for your ex who is very clearly not good for you. The lyrics can be reviewed here.
The song begins with Iggy Azalea saying her name and talking about the title of the song and how Grande has “one less problem without ya.” This is followed by Grande singing the first verse, “Hey baby even though I hate ya! / I wanna love ya / I want you! / And even though I can’t forgive you / I really want ta / I want you! / Tell me, tell me baby/ Why can’t you leave me? / Cause even though I shouldn’t want it / I gotta have it / I want you!” Grande is saying that her ex is bad for her, but that she wants him nonetheless. It appears this is her problem.
The Bible warns us to avoid entanglement with those who will tear us down (Proverbs 16:28, Proverbs 22:24-25). Paul in 2 Corinthians warns us about relationships with unbelievers who could hurt us (2 Corinthians 6:14-15). Grande is a vocal unbeliever, however, making that last point moot. She is living the world and currently is of the world. But, I digress.
She is desiring that which she knows what is wrong for her. What causes strife? Desiring what is wrong for you and not seeking the wisdom of God (James 4:1-2). When we do what we know is wrong for us, we are letting sin control us, consume us, and dominate us (Romans 7:15-25).
Grande then continues with Big Sean interjecting at the end with the following lyrics, “Head in the clouds / Got no weight on my shoulders / I should be wiser / And realize that I’ve got / One less problem without ya!” This person causes issues in the singer’s life and she should be wiser, should be recognizing the negative influence he has on her. Christians are not to associate with people who claim Christ, but are hurtful, sinful, bad friends (1 Corinthians 5:11). Leave them especially if they tempt you to sin and hurt your walk with Christ (Hebrews 12:1). This is doubly true for romantic relationships! She is right, she should be wiser and heed the advice of the Lord (Proverbs 2:6-7).
After saying “One less problem without ya” a lot, the second verse begins with Grande singing, “I know you’re never gonna wake up / I gotta give up / But it’s you! / I know I shouldn’t ever call back / Or let you come back / But it’s you!” She actually knows what she should do, knows she should avoid this ex of hers – but…she has trouble holding back, trouble avoiding the patterns she was involved in previously. The things which we desire to leads away from God are unique to us, begin on the inside, then burst forth in sin (James 1:12-16). That’s true whether you’re an 80 year old man or a 20 year old female pop star. Any “little sin” will creep within and cause internal damage (1 Corinthians 5:6). This is why memories of former lovers can be so damaging, allowing the little sin of the past to creep within you and lead you to lust, covet, desire.
Grande continues by singing, “Every time you touch me / And say you love me / I get a little bit breathless / I shouldn’t want it / But it’s you!” As noted above, this unique temptation draws her in and leads her down the negative path. Leading her back to the one she knows to be wrong for her. She feels like he’s the problem, but in the end she is the titular problem.
After another chorus saying the problems are lessened without this ex, rapper Iggy Azalea jumps in saying, “What you got? / Smart money bettin’ / I’ll be better off without you / In no time / I’ll be forgettin’ all about you / You saying that you know / But I really really doubt you / Understand my life is easy / When I ain’t around you.” She’s pointing out the axiom put forward in 1 Corinthians 5:11 and Hebrews 12:1; cut out the ones who cause you to sin, cut out the ones who cause problems – you’ll be better for it. As Christ said to get extreme on getting rid of sin in your life, that includes radical removal of those who cause it (Matthew 5:30).
Iggy continues, “To biggie to be here stressin’ / I’m thinkin’ I love the thought of you / More than I love your presence / And the best thing now / Is probably for you to exit / I let you go / Let you back / I finally learned my lesson! / No half-stepping / Either you want it or you just playin’ / I’m listening to you knowin’ / I can’t believe what you’re sayin’ / There’s a million you’s baby boo / So don’t be dumb / I got 99 problems / But you won’t be one.” With a Jay Z reference in the mix of Iggy’s high paced flows, she continues to call out – let this man go, cut him out of your life. She’s telling her friend to cut out the one who’s hurting you, the one who’s causing you to stumble, the one who’s causing you to fall. Sure, it’s not from a Christian perspective – but it’s accurate and helpful advice. Cut out the ones who cause you problems. As I noted in my discussion of Katy Perry’s “Roar:”
For those outside the church, outside of Christ, we are to expect them to act sinful (1 Corinthians 5:9-12). We should want them to come to Christ and change. But, we should be unafraid to walk away from those who claim Christ but who ignore His truths. We should be unafraid to walk away from those who claim Christ, but continue to try to lead you to sin.
This is just as true in this instance.
The problem isn’t him. The problem is sin. The problem is you. The solution? Jesus. Jesus cleanses of us all inequities in His bloody sacrifice on the cross (Matthew 26:28, Ephesians 1:7, Hebrews 9:14, Peter 2:24). Embrace Christ and be cleansed. Those 99 problems, lay at the feet of the Lord our God and He will handle it, He will recreate you. Then you will have one less problem and one great, eternal joy.