Likes: Honeymoon Avenue, Almost is Never Enough
Dislikes: Popular Song, Better Left Unsaid
Overall: Cute throwback pop/R&B; the lyrics and vocal are unimpressive, however
Nickelodeon star Ariana Grande gained what felt like overnight attention with YouTube videos showcasing her Mariah Carey-inspired chops just in time for Republic Records to push her debut album “Yours Truly.” Grande’s 1st single, “The Way,” fed off the catchiness of its sample, “Still Not a Player” by the late Big Pun (which is a sample itself), and combined with the viral attention, was a 1-2 punch of hype. Well, did she live up to it? Sort of. What I enjoyed about the record was that it took me back to the late 1990’s-early 2000’s pop/R&B that I miss so much and Grande’s voice is actually something I can take seriously. However, a few of the songs sound too much alike because they’re similar in build and I got annoyed with the sampling (“Yours Truly” includes throwback tracks from Lil Kim & Mary J. Blige, among others). Granted, your average hip-hop album is baptized in such, but the excerpts are usually manipulated in a distinct way that makes for a unique rendition and other elements, like lyricism, help the song standout on its own. On Grande’s album, the samples are only slightly tweaked and the lyrics are generally very simple and unaffecting. Therefore, I was left to wonder if I only liked songs such as “Lovin’ It” because of its reused music.
In terms of the vocals, I felt let down because there were more impressive moments on Grande’s Carey covers than on the album! What Grande offers is all very honeyed and sweet, but I was waiting for a stellar, breathtaking flash and it never came. One issue the 20-year-old has overall is that her conveyance is emotionless. She fails to sing with any feeling or grit, which may be because she’s still at a stage as a new act where she’s focused on reaching the vocal standard of her idols (in this case, Mariah Carey). “Almost is Never Enough,” featuring Nathan Sykes, packs the most lyrical and emotional punch. By and large, I think Ariana Grande is working with something, and once she concentrates on finding her own voice and forming an identifiable sound, she’ll be good to go. Image-wise, it’s agitating that she’s being marketed as a teenager (as if the public can’t internet search her age) when she’s almost old enough to be graduating from college. Her signature ponytail in soft-curls and sweet-16 party dresses were topped off with some of the juvenile content of the album. The most high-school friendly was “Popular” featuring Mika. Who does Republic think they’re fooling?