Ariana Grande is kind of a big deal to a lot of people.
She’s a former tween star, cutting her teeth in scripted comedy for Nickelodeon, before transforming herself into a fledgling singer. So what, you might say? The story’s almost as old as modern pop music itself, but Grande established herself away from her peers like the electropop-favouring Selena Gomez, or the rockier Demi Lovato, by revealing her impressive, diva vocal talent. My Everything is her sophomore LP, but is it a stumble for the singer, or a triumph for a young talent on the rise?
Headlining the record is uber-summer smash ‘Problem’, a saxophone-sampling, retro-throwback of a song that sees Grande step fully onto the global pop stage as a popstar waiting in the wings. Her Mariah-esque vocals anchor the song and Iggy Azalea’s guest feature helps to break the song up and tread it into fully contemporary material. Quite simply, the song was the best choice for single, and it helped elevate Grande to that global stage, ready to play with the big boys and girls.
When Grande is upbeat, she sounds completely in her element – with surprise hit single ‘Break Free’, she dabbles in bright EDM-pop, while its more subdued sibling, ‘One Last Time’ swirls in enjoyable electronica and even the spoken-word ‘Intro’ is shockingly gorgeous with its ambient vibe and serene cooing, making this album disparate if mostly enjoyable.
Some of the album highlights are the collaborations Grande chooses to associate herself with – the Childish Gambino guest verse on spiky, sassy R&B number ‘Break Your Heart Right Back’ is fun, and Grande’s duet with rap rising star A$AP Ferg, ‘Hands On Me’, is a catchy and fun track that helps redeem some of the album’s failing moments. Best of all is the gorgeous pop number ‘Love Me Harder’ with indie legend The Weeknd, that balances infectious catchiness with an effortlessly classic sound, transforming Grande into a siren and Abel Tesfaye into a bonafide superstar.
Not everything shines so bright on the alum, which, sadly, is patchy at best. Grande’s impressive vocals are wasted on many of the album’s ballads; the Harry Styles-penned ‘Just A Little Bit of Your Heart’ is weakly executed, while eponymous track ‘My Everything’ is a downer of an ending to those on the standard edition, and ‘Be My Baby’ is throwaway filler. That isn’t to say every ballad fails Grande’s talents – irrepressibly sexy slow jam ‘Best Mistake’ with current beau, rapper Big Sean, is a notable exception – but it’s jarring enough to spoil the back half of the album.
Ultimately, My Everything has much better aspirations than are fully realised in its execution: Grande has the vocals of a diva legend in the making and fortunately a lot of the material here helps showcase that. It’s a shame then, that the album seems unable to unite the two sides of Grande – R&B songstress and proper popstar respectively – which exist uncomfortably side-by-side on the record. Still, it’s an important step for Grande, and hopefully this can be the stepping stone to allow Grande to decide who she wants to be, and she can continue the path to becoming a new star in the pop firmament.