Ariana Grande, ‘Yours Truly’ – Album Review
Ariana Grande began her career on Nickelodeon’s show Victorious as the bubbly and sweet Cat Valetine. Like many other Nickelodeon and Disney screen starlets, Grande has transitioned to a pop star like Victoria Justice, Miranda Cosgrove and Selena Gomez. But unlike her peers, she’s steering clear of bubble gum pop with her debut LP, ‘Yours Truly,’ which pays homage to R&B from the late ’90s and early 2000s.
Grande has credited Whitney Houston, India.Arie and Destiny’s Child as her influences but it is apparent that Mariah Carey is one of the prime components inspiring her sound, especially with her feathery voice and whistle register that Carey made famous in the ’90s.
Working with legendary producer Babyface and newcomers The Rascals and Harmony Samuels, this is a project crafted into an easy listening yet enjoyable experience. Ms. Grande is cementing herself in the music industry with a promising career based off this debut, out Sept. 3.
The Nickelodeon star goes from ’50 and ’60′s doo-wop to ’90′s R&B to Broadway tunes to electronic pop effortlessly and compared to other pop stars out today, Grande has the pipes to back up her talents.
1. ‘Honeymoon Avenue’
‘Honeymoon Avenue’ is pop perfection as the opening number on ‘Yours Truly,’ with barbershop harmonies that are reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s ‘The Way You Make Me Feel.’ Grande floats over the notes as she sings about a relationship departing from the happier days into bumpy roads. She urges a return to the “honeymoon” phase.
2. ‘Baby I’
The second single off ‘Yours Truly’ is a throwback feel to the 2000’s reign of R&B — more specifically Ashtani in her prime. Grande’s whispery vocals of “Oh baby” are featured throughout the song. This is one of the weaker tracks on the album, but definitely catchy with its cheesy lyrics.
3. ‘Right There’ Feat. Big Sean
‘Right There’ pushes the pop starlet to the forefront, moving past other Disney and Nickelodeon actresses-turned-singers. Tapping Big Sean and sampling Lil Kim’s ‘Crush On You,’ the singer declares she’s a ride or die chick, but in more of a ‘Kidz Bop’ kind of way. Her vocals are strong over the hip-hop heavy beat.
4. ‘Tattooed Heart’
Grande takes us back to the doo-wop days here with two-count snaps and four-part harmonies. ‘Tattooed Heart’ really captures the days where diners, milkshakes and falling in love were the most important times in a teenager’s life.
5. ‘Lovin’ It’
‘Lovin’ It’ is the first up-tempo song on the album. The songstress flies through the lyrics to keep up with the beat, but it hinders the track as it’s difficult to understand her message when she’s singing.
This uplifting track is fun and one that you’ll find yourself singing along to before the beat ends. The piano-driven ode finds the songbird expressing her desire to make people dance. This is definitely crafted as a radio-friendly tune.
Similar to ‘Tattooed Heart,’ this tune has more doo-wop but with a modern and sexy feel. Grande shows a little sultry side with her voice here. She sings about spending days daydreaming of her boyfriend with her “chin in the palm of her hand,” all over the way he makes her happy.
8. ‘The Way’ Feat. Mac Miller
This is the first single off the album and where we took notice of the Nickelodeon star as a singer. There is a sampling of the piano melody from ‘A Little Bit of Love’ by Brenda Russell here, but most commonly heard is Big Pun’s ‘Still Not a Player.’ The Florida-born singer has a bad boy lover but that doesn’t take away from the way he makes her feel. Mac Miller throws it back with his 16 bars while showing all the ways he can make her happy.
9. ‘You’ll Never Know’
The impulsive, synthesized track finds Grande singing about the best revenge for a guy who doesn’t step up to the plate to indicate his feelings until his girl is with someone else. Of course she ends the track with Mariah Carey-inspired whistle notes.
10. ‘Almost Is Never Enough’ Feat. Nathan Skyes
Nathan Skyes from the boy band The Wanted overshadows Grande in this jazzy ballad. But her harmonies are beautiful behind Nathan’s strong tenor voice.
11. ‘Popular Song’ Feat. Mika
Written by Mika and Priscilla Renea, ‘Popular Song’ is undoubtedly the worst song on the entire album. Sampling the tune ‘Popular’ from the Broadway musical ‘Wicked,’ Grande returns to her Broadway roots (she starred in the Broadway musical ‘13’) with the British singer, who’s featured on the track. Perfect for Radio Disney as the two sing about a hater who attempts to make you feel like the underdog until you’re the star. It’s beyond cheesy and out of place from the other songs.
12. ‘Better Left Unsaid’
‘Better Left Unsaid’ is the most modern song on the album as it has a more electronic-EDM feel and it serves as a great closing number on ‘Yours Truly.’ This track is radio-ready and definitely could be her first club hit from the album. It’s short and fun and definitely will get you dancing.