My Everything Album Review
Released August 22, 2014
Genre: Pop, Contemporary R&B
To be completely honest, I thought Ariana Grande’s debut album Yours Truly wasn’t that bad…at all. And despite its constant radio rotation and cringe worthy lyrics from Iggy Azalea, I also like “Problem.” I can’t explain why, but I’d be lying to myself if I didn’t. I guess it’s what all pop music succeeds in doing: simple tunes that, no matter how generic or boring it may be, you’ll find yourself singing again and again and again. Throughout her career, Grande has slowly been shedding her Nickelodeon-girl image, becoming a pop star of her own. The Aguilera, Carey, and Lopez comparisons have been made, and there’s no denying Grande’s inherent talent, with her powerful voice and more than modest image and persona. Throw in some Top 40 hits, collaborators turned lovers, and a plethora of fans, and you have a true beginning for of the decade’s most prolific pop stars.
Grande knows her influences well and she smoothly makes these songs her own. So these songs don’t come off as ripoffs; Grande takes the all too familiar emotion and vocal range, and adds modern instrumentation to keep things fresh, relevant, and interesting. There’s the ambitious festival pleaser “Break Free” that, while stumbling into generic territory by hopping onto the EDM fad, shines with Grande’s empowering lyricism and heartfelt falsetto. “Intro” is perhaps one of the most beautiful openers I’ve heard all year; all a Capella and soul, the track sounds like the opener to an indie romance flick. The propulsive beat of “One Last Time” carries Grande’s voice, powerful and emotive.
A slew of artists assist Grande on this latest endeavor of hers including Big Sean, Zedd, The Weeknd, Childish Gambino, A$AP Ferg, Jessie J and Nicki Minaj. While Grande remains on top of her artistic abilities, some, but not all, of the featured artists provide some assistance or extra baggage. The Weeknd featured track “Love Me Harder” pairs the two up perfectly pleading for love while “Problem” finds Grande confident voice. However the Big Sean plagued “Best Mistake” and horrendous “Bang Bang” showcase the ultimate “no-no”, in my book, for pop music: sacrificing songwriting for musical gain. While most of these songs are party ready and can easily be put on a radio playlist, Grande bring in some sweet and beautiful piano arrangements. “Just A Little Bit Of Your Heart” finds Grande at her most vulnerable which doesn’t fit her confident personality at all.. While I do frown at the lack of empowerment, the instrumentation of strings and back up harmonies makes me like the track just a little bit more, culminating into a lush and grand climax.
Now, I’m a fan of the Lord A$AP Ferg, but “Hands On Me” doesn’t meander far from the “early 2000s-Destiny’s Child-party” beat that it is so disadvantaged by. I’m not dissapointed for it’s lack of appeal, Ferg can churn out some incredibly catchy trap-rap hooks, but for how shallow the songwriting and instrumentation presents itself. Likewise “Break Your Heart Right Back” brings in fat bass drum thuds, with some silly trap hi-hats over a repetitive hook, but it does showcase Grande as fiercely strong and independent (watch out Beyonce). Nonetheless, Grande does suffer from a lack of variety, vocally or instrumentation. Title track “My Everything” again tones down the upbeat attitude, delivering another piano led tune that finds Grande once again pleading, but on a more personal level.
Although mostly hit-or-miss Grande proves to be a major powerhouse in the world of pop music. However, her songwriting and instrumentation suffer from redundancy and lack of variety. Just like Sam Smith’s conservatively groomed debut, Grande also sounds too catered and modeled for the public, never reaching her full potential; Grande nonetheless has a few gems that are worthy of attention. With My Everything, Ariana Grande shows that she has made her fixture in our culture and there’s no stopping her now. Grande’s infatuation with love, EDM culture, and baroque tendencies have always swirled their way into our ears, but with this record she’s almost distinguishable amongst the other copycats out there.
FAV TRACKS: Intro, Problem (feat. Iggy Azalea), One Last Time, Break Free (feat. Zedd), Love Me Harder (feat. The Weeknd)
LEAST FAV TRACKS: Best Mistake (feat. Big Sean), Just A Little Bit Of Your Heart, Hands On Me (feat. A$AP Ferg), Bang Bang (feat. Jessie J and Nicki Minaj)