Ariana Grande’s new album, My Everything, is out this week. It’s her 2nd album following her debut into the music scene last year with Yours Truly.
While her debut album drew many comparisons to global superstar Mariah Carey, this album seems like an attempt to build a different image and a different sound for Ariana. We can certainly say there has been a shift in sound, but as far as revealing her personality a bit more, well, that was a bit of a failure. The reality is we still don’t know who Ariana Grande is as a person or as an artist.
As much as her album titles seem to be giving the impression of an intimate work, the music continues not to reflect that sentiment. The songs just don’t reveal anything of Ariana, they’re pretty Pop songs with all of the standard elements of a Pop hit, but no real depth or substance to them. On this album’s intro Ariana welcomes the listener on a pseudo-acapella track, promising to give “all [she] has,” but as soon as those 80 seconds are over, here come the horns of the lead single, “Problem,” blasting and announcing she’s over the relationship. A bit jarring to be honest.
We’ve hinted at a shift in sound on this second album. Babyface and Harmony Samuels (who were responsible for most of the tracks on her debut) have been cut off, with the only Samuels track being relegated to bonus track status, while renowned Pop producers such as Max Martin, Zedd, Benny Blanco, Ryan Tedder and Darkchild make their debut on her discography.
Ariana continues to use that whispery texture of her voice against these electronic and synthesized beats, leaving the organic Pop/R&B productions of her first album behind. Her collaboration with The Weeknd “Love Me Harder” has nothing of the moody sound he’s known for. The ballads sound cold and distant, without the warmth that characterised the 60s-inspired ballads such as “Honeymoon Avenue” and “Tattoed Heart” on Yours Truly.
The album’s best moments come from the midtempos: “Be My Baby” is a nice and melodic track with a strong hook; “Best Mistake” (featuring Big Sean) probably has the best production on the album (and her discography so far) with its darker sound and “Break Your Heart Right Back” with its Diana Ross sample is good enough, just because you cannot go wrong with sampling something as iconic as “I’m Coming Out.” Another honorable mention goes to the Kelis/Britney Spears-sounding “Hands on Me,” which recalls mid-00s hits such as “Milkshake” and “I’m a Slave 4 U.”
Overall, it seems like the objective to distance Ariana from the obvious, yet repelled, influence of Mariah Carey has not worked in her favor. She’s entered the territory of a more vocally talented Jennifer Lopez and abandoned a sound that made her vaguely unique in the current mainstream market. She’s assimilated herself to the rest of the Pop starlets for the sake of shaking off comparisons. Not a great move.