In the last 12 months Ariana Grande has gone from Nickelodeon TV star and pop wannabe to global chart-topping superstar. The diminutive 21-year-old caught the attention of pop pickers with the release of her 2013 debut album Yours Truly which was a collection of 90s-influenced R&B/pop numbers that drew comparisons to Mariah Carey at her finest. Grande’s incredible vocal range, complete with whistle notes, was also likened to Carey’s iconic vocals which is no bad way to start your music career is it?
A year on from that record and Grande is launching new album My Everything off the back of three hit singles. Problem featuring Iggy Azalea gave Grande her first ever UK number one whilst in the US Problem, Break Free featuring Zedd and Bang Bang featuring Jessie J and Nicki Minaj have all hit the Hot 100 Top 10. Regardless of what My Everything sounds like it seems that Grande is likely to claim one of the biggest albums of 2014.
My Everything is a progression from Yours Truly that retains some of the 90s R&B feel of its predecessor but opens up Grande’s sound making it the most mainstream and chart-friendly it’s been so far. The album opens with a riff-filled intro that showcases Grande’s range before giving way to the familiar Problem.
One issue the record does have is that it’s no particularly cohesive. Whereas Yours Truly captured a sound and an era, My Everything is a little all over the place which makes it a little jarring on first listen. With repeated listens the lack of cohesion becomes less of a problem but the album doesn’t feel like a single body of work like the star’s debut.
Fans expecting lots of songs in the vein of Problem and Break Free will be disappointed as they are the biggest pop moments on the record. The slow building One Last Time is the closest the album gets to another pop anthem but it isn’t quite in the same league as the album’s two big singles. Much of the record mixes more mature R&B with pop sensibilities such as the seductive Be My Baby featuring Cashmere Cat, the sparse beats of Break Your Heart Right Back featuring Childish Gambino samples Diana Ross’ I’m Comin’ Out, and Hands Of Me featuring A$AP Ferg is Grande’s Christina Aguilera moment where she sheds her innocent image and embraces her sexual side.
The most striking moment on the record comes on the surprising Love Me Harder featuring The Weeknd. On paper this didn’t sound like it would work at all but Grande’s voice contrasts with The Weeknd’s perfectly as subdued beats battle to break out. Upon repeated listens the track becomes one of the standouts on the record.
My Everything includes two big ballads; Just A Little Bit Of Your Heart co-written by One Direction’s Harry Styles and the album’s title tracks. Both songs showcase Grande’s incredible range but neither are particularly memorable moments.
Without a doubt Ariana Grande is going to become the biggest popstar on the planet with My Everything. Personally we don’t think it’s as strong a record as Yours Truly but there is plenty to enjoy. It’ll be interesting to see where Ariana heads after this album and we have a feeling the pull of mainstream pop may be too strong for her to resist. One thing we definitely want is more bangers next time round and less of the mid-tempo.