Review Summary: Minimal growing pains.
After the release of 2013’s Yours Truly
, one thing was for certain: Ariana Grande can sing. Her mini-Mariah vocals complemented classic R&B arrangements and orchestral instrumentation to perfection, resulting in a surprise treat for both her Nickelodeon following and pop music fanatics. However, tacked on the end of this album was a sign of what was to come. Lush orchestral ballad turned electro-pop banger "Better Left Unsaid" hinted at forays into new directions, with more experimental pop confections and bangers.
Come one year later, and it is definitely clear that Grande has been experimenting. Sax loops, power ballads, bangers, and trap beats are all present on the mixed bag that is My Everything
. Much like Rihanna’s 2010 album, Loud
, the remarkable diversity that is featured over the course of 40 minutes has its hit and misses, and lacks a certain cohesion, but it is an impressive piece of work that represents an artist fulfilling her potential and coming out of her safe zone.
Take the excellent lead single, "Problem," for example. Grande uses her vocals to her advantage, creating a blissful build-up towards a massive chorus, with a bass drop, smooth whispers, and a simple, yet effective saxophone hook. The smooth, delicate R&B arrangement of "Love Me Harder" is greatly accentuated by the soft voices of both The Weeknd and Grande, with her melismatic cooing stealing the show. "Hands On Me," with its early 2000’s beat, is nothing if not fun, and proves that she can also work well in racier territory.
In essence, the only weak material here comes when the production fails Grande’s voice. She tries her hardest to make the most of her songs, but nothing could save the lacklustre writing of "One Last Time." The song ignores the use of Grande’s greatest weapon: her range. It simply doesn’t reach the peaks of the far superior club banger "Break Free." "Break Your Heart Right Back" also falls short, because the production seems unfinished in contrast to the campy melody that Grande works with spectacularly in a sing-song style. While still a strong selection, the lack of a backbone or legitimate percussion line makes what could have been a potential summer anthem sound slightly undercooked.
Of course, the old Ariana still finds her chance to shine through. Ballads like "My Everything," "Just A Little Bit Of Your Heart," and "Why Try" are gorgeous. Placed intelligently between some of the heavier songs, the ballads serve as a reminder of what brought her here in the first place by showcasing that signature voice. However, that isn’t the only ability through which she can be recognized anymore. By making such a diverse album with many great selections, My Everything
successfully expands on Grande’s artistry and solidifies her role as a pop chameleon.