Monday, September 08, 2014

A pretty little mess

album review

Singer: Ariana Grande
Album: My Everything

Considering how painfully grating her voice sounds when she portrays Cat Valentine on the sitcoms Victorious and Sam & Cat, who could have guessed that Ariana Grande would one day be presented to us as the next big thing in pop music? The young actress actually started out in musical theatre before earning her Nickelodeon-generated fame, and has since made the requisite jump to the world of pop singing like many of her peers. It wasn’t until the release of her Iggy Azalea-assisted single ‘Problem’ earlier this year, however, that Grande started gaining traction in the field. Now the singer has unveiled her sophomore album, My Everything, a set of 12 ditties that aim for easy chart success without daring to do anything particularly different.

The usual army of pop manufacturers (Max Martin, Shellback, Benny Blanco, Ryan Tedder, Darkchild, and Zedd, to name a few) have been recruited to polish this collection of mid-tempo R&B and EDM-lite that variously evokes everything from Glee to Amerie. The material seems to have been put together to help the singer solidify her “mini-Mariah Carey” credentials, which it mostly succeeds in doing. It turns out the starlet’s vocals actually have an impressive range, but for the most part, her delivery lacks any signs of rawness or grit, thereby stripping the tracks of emotion and personality. It almost feels like you could substitute the sentiments, replacing them with their polar opposites, and the overall effect would remain the same.

The sax-driven sass of ‘Problem’ offers the most interesting effort on the record, and its attitude is only paralleled on the deluxe edition bonus track ‘Bang Bang’ in which she joins Jessie J and Nicki Minaj to have a ‘Lady Marmalade’ moment. The serviceable EDM of ‘One Last Time’ (which credit David Guetta among its many writers) and ‘Break Free’ (which features Zedd) are fun but faceless, while the gentle ballad ‘Just a Little Bit of Your Heart’ that was co-penned by One Direction’s Harry Styles is sweet but forgettable.

A lot of resources have clearly gone into creating an album with wide range and chart appeal, but being overly reliant on guest collaborators (Big Sean, Childish Gambino, The Weeknd, ASAP Ferg, as well as the aforementioned Iggy Azalea and Zedd) and a plethora of producers has made the output incohesive. My Everything makes it very clear that Ariana Grande needs to take charge of her own music, discover who she really is, and start sounding like she is invested in the words she is singing.

Highlights: ‘Problem’, ‘Bang Bang’
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

- Sameen Amer

Instep Today, The News - 8th September, 2014 *

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