REVIEW: Ariana Grande’s “My Everything”

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Breaking onto the scene last year with her debut album, Yours Truly, Ariana Grande is unlike the Disney stars that have come before her:  she can actually sing. I mean, really sing. Of course, you know that now.  Her first album was decent but generic, yet her voice seemed poised to make her the next pop princess, and the music industry knew it.  

Taking a look at the writer/producer list for her sophomore album, My Everything, it’s clear that her label is making sure Ariana is singing material worthy of her voice.  After a brief intro, we get “Problem”, her first single that almost nabbed the title of “Song Of The Summer” (it ended up being runner-up to Iggy Azalea‘s “Fancy”).  With its trumpet and throwback vibe, co-writer Max Martin (who has written far too many pop hits to name) has given Ariana the best single she’s ever had and made her the major pop star she deserves to be.

breakfreeFrom there, we go to “One Last Time”, co-produced and co-written by David Guetta. Before you start thinking that you’re just in for another EDM track, stop.  Hearing the track, you’d never suspect that Guetta was the producer behind it. It’s got a drum beat that has a tribal feel to it, and the production restrains itself from going over-the-top. This is some of Guetta’s best work.

Ryan Tedder, lead singer of OneRepublic, co-wrote a powerful ballad that showcases Ariana’s pipes in front of a surprisingly aggressive beat.  Second single, “Break Free”, featuring Zedd, is a standard pop-EDM track, but dang, it’s catchy.  Things then slow down with the R&B groove on “Best Mistake”, featuring Big Sean. Ariana, who co-wrote the song, shows real maturity with her whispery vocals (Mariah would be proud).  You start wondering if this album is ever going to falter.

“Be My Baby” won’t be anyone’s favourite song from My Everything, but it’s a decent album track. Childish Gambino helps her sample Diana Ross‘ “I’m Coming Out” on the standout kissoff “Break Your Heart Right Back”.

The most unexpected collaborator is The Weeknd.  The Canadian R&B singer stays away from a pop sound so it’s surprising that he would contribute to an album of an artist who is trying to be the next big thing on the charts.  But it worked. “Love Me Harder” is one of the best tracks on the album with its heavily synthesized sound, and their voices blend beautifully together.  Harry Styles co-wrote the first piano ballad on the album, “Just A Little Bit Of Your Heart”.  Of course, Ariana stuns with her vocals, and the One Direction member has given her a catchy refrain that makes it something special.  If you’re keeping track, that’s 10 tracks that are collectively pretty close to pop perfection.

I would be ready to call this the best pop album of the year, but she really falters with the last 2 tracks. “Hands On Me” fails to combine a hip hop beat with a cheesy 80s sound.  The closing track, another piano ballad called “My Everything” doesn’t excite with its melody that never really finds a focus.  Don’t bother with the deluxe edition. You already downloaded “Bang Bang”, her track with Jessie J and Nicki Minaj, and the two new songs, “Only 1” and “You Don’t Know Me”, prove once again that there’s rarely good material lying in the deluxe edition of an album.

Regardless of botching the landing, My Everything is a stellar pop album that proves that Ariana really is a force to be reckoned with in the pop scene.  The 21-year-old pint-sized star already proved she has the pipes, but now she’s shown that she can top the charts like the best in the biz.

Grade:  A-


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