Ariana Grande
My Everything



August 26th, 2014 | 147 replies

Release Date: 08/25/2014 | Tracklist

Review Summary: An unsettling definition of maturity.

In the never-ending quest for some sort of critical narrative to which an artist and her corresponding press campaign can anchor herself, Ariana Grande and her team have decided to dub her newest album, My Everything, “more mature.” A star-studded cast has materialized so that Grande may shed the image of dumb, blinking teenager she cultivated so carefully through her various arts-related careers. Even the album art flashes big red “MATURITY” lights. Come buy my album, the Ariana Grande posing vulnerably on the cover with the too-short skirt and the pure white stilettos seems to scream (or croon, or purr, whatever the “mature” alternative to screaming is). I know you admonished Yours Truly for being too carefree, too saccharine. That was years ago, darling. You wouldn’t even believe how I’ve changed since then! Cashmere Cat is here! Childish Gambino is here! Even The Weeknd is here! Just listen to the slick, seductive beats I’ve had prepared special for you. You know you want me, dearest. All this I do for you.

If this sounds a bit unsettling and retrograde, it’s because all the purported maturity Grande was supposed to strut here belies much darker things. Yes, at best the production takes a significant step forward from the hit-or-miss EDM of the worst songs on Yours Truly: the sexy, simmering snares and synth sidechaining of “Love Me Harder” are pure swagger, a walloping slow-burner for the ages, while the cocksure sax hook from the already-well-tested “Problem” still feels energizing when paired with Big Sean’s one positive contribution to Grande’s music and that signature simplistic 808 bass. The only issue, though, is that the extra-slick instrumentals mask any form of emotional progression Grande might have wanted to show. At times, they’re even too slick: the tom rolls and candy-coated hooks of “One Last Time” make an already uncharacteristically dull vocal performance skew even closer to the no-man’s land of countless ex-TV belles like Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato. The song isn’t bad, sure, but it’s not Grande at her best - it’s crafted as generic as possible, every inch of her voice pumped with maximum memorability and minimum personality.

The unfortunately average vocal performances reveal the root issue with My Everything: despite all the claims Grande’s PR team might be making about the album as a legitimate step forward from the naivete of Yours Truly, there’s really no logical progression of maturity to be found here. Grande spends most of the album weeping about the industry-standard nameless lover, at the end of a young romantic fling instead of her previous album’s relationship beginning. She’s older but no wiser, still stuck on someone whom she alternately hates, feels inferior to, is totally done with, and wants to crush. It’s clearly been a breakup about which Grande feels Swiftian levels of anger and sadness, but unlike Taylor’s scathing indictments of her ex-lovers, Grande lets herself be used, a cheater’s “fool.”

So, she’s “matured” in the sense that she’s at the end of a romantic cycle instead of the beginning, yet she can’t take enough pride in herself to become stronger - she’s inextricably tied to a lover who’s not worth her time. This disconnect is made even more disturbing by terribly-placed physical-above-all-else odes like the (gasp!) explicit references to “making love” in “Hands On Me,” complete with a vaguely objectifying and totally out-of-place verse by none other than A$AP Ferg. The unsettling subtext of abuse permeating My Everything represents the crux of why this album is unenjoyable. It makes it difficult to appreciate an otherwise gorgeous and swanky “Be My Baby” (a shame, as Cashmere Cat really shows his chops as a pop producer). Even worse, it can make seemingly throwaway lines - like the Big Sean clunker “I know sometimes it's hard to realize I'm the man that you need / I had a dream we branched out started a family tree” - almost sinister.

Viewed through this perspective, the cloying closer “My Everything” reveals itself to be close to horrifying. A seeming throwback to the ballad-heavy Yours Truly, the song’s claims of “He wasn’t my everything till we were nothing” bang harshly against Grande’s accusation that she could “tell that [he was] just with her.” This is precisely where the album fails: the focus is not on Grande as a strong young woman with a fantastic voice. Instead, the focus is on everything but Grande: we only know how she feels through the lens of the mystery man featured here. This is not maturity. This is losing everything to a love that isn’t worth your time. It’s easy to argue that this is the antithesis of any value a young woman looking to Ariana Grande as a role model should have.

Obviously, as a young man who feeds into the energy bestowed upon me by The Patriarchy and such, I’m not in a position to critique Grande for serving as a poor role model. She’s independent (or at least as independent as it’s possible to be as a radio-friendly pop star, fashionista, and ex-TV “starlet”), and has every right to make an album about an abusive relationship she’s faced. After all, so many amazing albums have dealt with less-than-gleaming anti-women issues - the work of Grimes, Sharon Van Etten, and Jessie Ware come to mind. Shouldn’t Grande be able to voice her thoughts and inner demons in a meaningful way? We’ve already come to know her as a bit of an outcast through her interviews, self-described as “literally the most sardonic person you’ve ever met,” and it makes sense that she’d be able to write interesting songs based around rough experiences.

The issue that lies herein is this: there’s a serious rift between the music and the lyrical content. It’s all well and good to deal with tough topics through music, but My Everything puts on a breezy pop face that severely hinders the potential poignancy of Grande’s words, morphing them into a more disquieting figure. It’s one thing to embrace the melancholy within your words through the music and turn the experience into something more than that, but it’s another thing entirely to shove the lyrics behind happy-go-lucky EDM and sing-along ballad piano. It’s a weird disconnect, and in this case that weirdness isn’t a good thing at all.

Tying everything back to the idea of the album as a showcase for Grande’s newfound maturity, My Everything ends up ringing hollow. Of course, it’s quite likely I’m reading far too deeply into this. After all, at face value this is just a somewhat forgettable pop album with extra-smooth production, much like any other eventually faceless Disney star. But in their search for narrative, Grande’s PR team seems to have overlooked a concerning interpretation - one which makes any sort of solely musical appreciation nearly impossible. The frankly awful separation between this and the general carefree attitude of everything about the album, from the production to the features to Grande’s pose on the cover, makes for an uncomfortable experience in the worst way.

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user ratings (191)
other reviews of this album
Chris Maitland (2.5)
Lackluster production and awkward hip-hop guest spots drag down Ariana Grande's stellar vocal perfor...

connor12 (3.5)
One of the better albums of 2014 pushes Ariana in a more "mature" direction and leaves us excited fo...

Dashnavar (3.5)
Minimal growing pains....

Comments:Add a Comment 
August 25th 2014


Album Rating: 2.5

in which Will rambles on for far too long and writes unsettling things which are unsettling because The Patriarchy probably

thanks to Robin for the advice, I added a few paragraphs near the end if you're interested and happen to be reading this

Green Baron
August 25th 2014


I actually like both Problem and Break Free, some of the better pop songs this year

Digging: Brand New - Science Fiction

August 25th 2014


Album Rating: 2.5

^^^agreed, Problem especially is so so great.

August 25th 2014


Album Rating: 3.3

Some great songs on here but not nearly enough of the others hold their own

Digging: The National - Sleep Well Beast

August 25th 2014


Album Rating: 3.0

This album is fire. Even better than the first one.

August 25th 2014


It's way worse

August 25th 2014


Review read more like 2 instead of a 2.5, at least to me.. But otherwise great review.. Was planning on checking this out, might give it a spin anyways even if it isn't that good just to see if there's anything i like on it...

I did hear Break Free, and that's actually a half-decent song, nothing stellar but O.k. for what it is.

August 25th 2014


I agree, this is a great review but it reads like a 2.
No interest in this album whatsoever though.

Staff Reviewer
August 25th 2014


yeah "Problem" is pretty damn good (besides iggy's typically heinous rapping). doubt i'll have much interest in this, though

Digging: Zola Jesus - Okovi

August 25th 2014


Album Rating: 2.5

re: reviewing scores - I was honestly so unsure as to a score for this that I was actually considering putting this on the blog to avoid scoring it. It's an enjoyable album for the most part, it's just the off-putting nature which makes it a weird listen (horrifying, fine). I had this at a 3 originally but bumped it down

Electric City
August 25th 2014


Album Rating: 2.2

dis be a pooper album

August 26th 2014


Album Rating: 3.3

I actually think this review reads like a 2.47951

Come on guys, you can't tell what number something should sound like.

August 26th 2014


"Ariana Grande and her team have decided to dub her newest album, Yours Truly"

Might want to fix that ;)

August 26th 2014


@BeneaththeDarkOcean: I think Will meant to write that there, I got what he was saying.

I wasn't overly impressed by the album, a bit of a let-down for me at least. That's the issue with pop artists trying to go "mature": it tends to flop. Stick to bubblegum-pop Grande, it suited you far better. Did anyone watch her Break Free performance at the VMAs, it was pure shit and her vocals were terrible.

August 26th 2014


I really like this review

August 26th 2014


break free is so good omg

August 26th 2014


Great review. I agree with your take on the album

August 26th 2014


this is by far Ariana's best sophomore album

August 26th 2014


Amazing review. Props for getting all your thoughts out on paper - it didn't read too too long to me.

"Break Free" = summer jam

Staff Reviewer
August 26th 2014


Album Rating: 2.0

i never understood the hype for her. yours truly wasn't anything special imo

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