Review Summary: A not so great, but hopeful debut from a vocal virtuoso.
You're probably wondering if Mariah Carey has anything new to offer to the music scene in her latest release Yours Truly. Not much, really. Especially, since this isn't actually a Mariah Carey album. Upon listening to the opening track “Honeymoon Avenue”, you might not get the joke. You might say, "But, this is Mariah Carey singing. Isn't it?". Apparently, the younger, fresher voice that sounds awfully similar to RnB songstress belongs to 20-year-old Ariana Grande. "Okay, so she's a Mariah copycat then?", you ask. Yes, and no. She has the chops and is easier on the eyes than the 90s diva, but her sound is vastly different. Abeit, on the pop and RnB spectrum. Her tone is poppier, bubblier, more light-hearted, and can't be described as being even remotely "divaish", except for probably a song or two (see “Almost is Never Enough”). She's Mariah Carey lite, if you will – a fitting description of her debut record; which isn't a bad thing at all.
The instrumentation, beats, and song arrangements are lush and nothing short of amazing. You'll find inventive percussion sections scattered throughout the record, something that isn't typically found on a pop record. Meanwhile, the vocals... oh, my. What can one possibly say about the vocals. Judging by her performance on this album, Ms. Grande's voice propeling her to being labeled the next vocalist diva is inevitable. Imminent. No doubt. Save for a few deficiencies in diction, I can sing nothing but praises for her voice. Her range is unbelievable; she can sing low passages with ease, at the same time, sing whistle notes like Christina and Mariah. Her belted notes sound effortless and the nether regions of her range are pristine. In other words, Ariana's voice is spectacular.
With that said, do all these positive, remarkable things equate to a must-buy album? I could go on listening to Yours Truly for days, with the sole purpose of admiring the astounding craftsmanship of the instrumentation and the splendid vocal work. Her vocal harmonies are a joy to listen to thanks to the impressive quality of her vocal chops; but, that's just about it. It's a marvelous work of art - no question about that. But, ironically, I rarely encountered the very reason people listen to pop records: catchy and infectious songs. And even when I did, it was only for a few fleeting moments when viewed in the context of this thirteen track record.
Yours Truly is sorely lacking in the hits department, but the sheer quality of the tracks themselves, despite not being remarkable in terms of hooks, carries the album afloat. Even though The Way, which features a welcome appearance from Mac Miller; and Baby I's intro, are the only sections I geniuninely enjoyed and revisited countless times (enough to keep them on repeat on my music player for a few weeks); the excellent quality of all the other tracks bear enough weight, so as not to classify Yours Truly as nothing less than a solid release.
It is also worth mentioning that it puts a smile on my face whenever the aldum dishes out nice throwbacks to nineties RnB. So, if you're into that brand of nostalgia, then I recommend you pick up this record. After giving Yours Truly a couple of listens, one can conclude that, if Ariana's debut is any indicator of the quality her future work as a vocalist, artist... and maybe even diva; then, this is a breathtaking landmark and tribute to the start of a hopefully prolific and promising career for this talented singer. Yours Truly is a beautiful record. Now, if it were only catchier.