Words About Music
Ariana Grande “My Everything”
Ariana Grande has one of the more interesting success stories in the past few years. She got her big break as an actress on Nickelodeon’s TV series “Victorious,” later transferring to the “Victorious”/”iCarly” spin-off series “Sam & Cat.” At some point during all this, she released an album “Yours Truly” that was surprisingly good. That album came out a year ago, and critics praised Grande’s Mariah Carey-esque vocal stylings. She’d proven herself as more than a kids’ show actress; she could sing on well-written and well-produced R&B/soul/pop songs. Coming off the success of that album is her biggest single yet, “Problem” featuring Australian rapper Iggy Azalea. I love this song. I love the production, the crazy saxophone, Iggy’s verse, all of it is just the makings of an incredible pop song. A year after her debut, though, was Ariana ready for a sophomore LP?
“My Everything” has a recurring theme of breakups. Perhaps it was inspired by her first breakup from on-again-off-again boyfriend Jai Brooks (I really know too much, don’t I?). Whatever the inspiration for the album is, don’t expect it to be anywhere near as good or exciting as “Problem.” Pop music usually isn’t about the cohesiveness and consistency of an entire album, which is probably why “Yours Truly” was such a surprise. There wasn’t a “Problem”-sized single to carry it. It was just a good R&B album. “My Everything” is less consistent, though. I think Grande is best when she is a part of more upbeat songs. In fact, some of the best songs on this album are the ones with guest rap verses. Not that she doesn’t hold her own on her own album, though. Grande is an amazing singer, but songs like “One Last Time” and “Be My Baby” and “Just a Little Bit of Your Heart” just don’t hold up.
The best thing that Ariana Grande has to offer, I think, is that she provides songs that are great even though they shouldn’t be. One of my favorites on here is “Why Try,” a typically run-of-the-mill song with a quiet-loud dynamic. It’s the most trodden trope of popular music ever, and it’s kind of ridiculous lyrically. But the way she emotes on top of Young Fathers-esque production (in the verses anyway) has me really enjoying it. It’s one of those situations where her voice almost seems like an instrument rather than words I should be listening to. Another example is “Break Free,” which features unambitious production from Zedd. I’ve heard countless “empowerment-in-the-midst-of-a-breakup” songs, and “Break Free” doesn’t really break free from the mold, pun intended. But, I mean… it’s catchy as hell! “THIS IS! THE PART WHEN I SAY THAT I DON’T WANT YA! I’M STRONGER THAN I’VE BEEN BEFOOOORE!”
This album isn’t great. It’s decent. It’ll probably sell more records than her debut solely because of the power of that first single, but I think Ariana fans will find that there’s like five or six other songs on here that are near that caliber. If you consider yourself a pop music aficionado that doesn’t care about any sort of ambition or creativity in lyrics, then “My Everything” should be up your alley. That’s not meant as an insult. Pop music usually isn’t praised for lyrical originality. There’s cliches on this album you’ve probably heard countless times in countless songs, but it’s a pretty fun experience. Not great, not terrible, just good fun for at least half the album’s run time.
SCORE – 6.7
FAVORITE TRACKS – Intro, Problem (feat. Iggy Azalea), Why Try, Break Free (feat. Zedd), Break Your Heart Right Back (feat. Childish Gambino), Hands on Me (feat. A$AP Ferg)