Album: My Everything
Producer: Ali Payami, Peter Svensson, Peter Carlsson
Label: Republic Records

The unlikely pairing of Ariana Grande and the Weeknd proved to be a stroke of genius on “Love Me Harder,” a seductive synth-pop duet that manages to push both artists out of their comfort zones, while also remaining appealing to each of their core values. Initially branded as a pop princess, Grande sheds the PG persona of Yours Truly as she focuses on a deeper understanding of love as an emotional and physical state: “If you just let me invade your space/I’ll take the pleasure, take it with the pain.” For his part, the Weeknd dials back his sexually explicit creativity and offers up a more mild, yet equally passionate play on the price of finding your soulmate. Tension mounts on the hook, the beat grinding like two lovers, as Grande and Weeknd trade provocative “oohs” and—yeah, this is getting me hot and bothered just thinking about the end results. Add a dash of Max Martin, who just so happens to be the most prolific songwriter of the 21st century, and “Love Me Harder” is earmarked as a defining musical moment of 2014. Stroke of genius, indeed. —Edwin Ortiz