Ariana Grande has got it unfairly good. Young, attractive, remarkably talented, and now commercially successful. The two pre-released singles Problem and Break Free are dominating the charts and Grande has now made many friends within the business. The main attraction of Grande and indeed My Everything is her stunning voice; expressive, powerful and indomitable. But, with talent and youth comes countless people ready to exploit and ruin a desirable thing. The main question entering My Everything is ‘can Ariana Grande avoid such pitfalls common to so many up-coming vocal-pop divas?’ – The answer is…kinda.
By no means is My Everything a revolutionary album. The path it travels is well-worn within the world of pop singers: Countless producers, multiple songwriting credits, plenty of guest rappers, and an adequate mix of emotional piano ballads and glitzy pop explosions. At its worst, it is the pinnacle of unacceptable mediocrity. Take Best Mistake and Hands On Me for instance: Easily the two worst cuts on the album, the former a murky and minimalist piano trudge littered with cliches and a creepy-in-a-bad-way verse from Big Sean, and the later an out-of-place sex display that sees Grande struggling to maintain conviction of any kind. Indeed, much of the album does sound like it was birthed from middle-aged men in board rooms strategically planning things out. Despite this, there is plenty to enjoy here, and the greatest pleasures scale high peaks.
Break Your Heart Right Back gleefully rides a sample from The Notorious B.I.G.’s Mo Money Mo Problems/Diana Ross’s I’m Comin’ Out for its chorus and features a headphone-satisfying bass line. One Last Time is a simple but chiming dance track with fervent choruses. Just a Little Bit of Your Heart is a tenderly moving piano ballad with subtle strings that is a wonderful showcase for Grande’s soaring vocal talents. Fun fact: The song was co-written by Harry Styles from One Direction. Yeah. Shocked me too.
The slow burning groover Love Me Harder is an absolute gem of a track. The throbbing pulse of heaving synthesisers serves as the perfect backdrop to Grande’s sensual tones (à la Donna Summer). Also worth noting, The Weekend’s guest appearance proves perhaps the best on the album, perfectly melding with Grande’s vocals and offering a distinct stylistic power. Then there are those two singles we mentioned earlier. Problem acts as the spiritual successor to Beyonce’s Crazy In Love and is just as terrific. Also, it is by far the most ‘experimental’ thing to be found on My Everything, somehow managing to combine pounding bass lines, sky-scraping pre-choruses, hushed male choruses, dirty sax loops, and an enjoyably obnoxious Iggy Azalea verse, into an irresistible piece of pop majesty that seems like it really belongs five years in the future. The empowerment anthem Break Free is easily the most produced thing here, with very clear EDM influences courtesy of producer Zedd. It does however, manage to avoid the hazardous pitfalls of the EDM and house music genre, and is in reality a powerfully pumping and vibrant expression of raw feeling.
Ariana Grande has all the stars aligned for a long and successful career in the music business. For those interested in the quality of the music, Grande puts forth a decent sophomore album, one with a couple of career defining classics,but still room for improvement.