This 20 year old vocal powerhouse may be more familiar to you as Cat Valentine from Victorious, but her voice has pushed her further than the Nickelodeon show. Ariana Grande’s velvet tone has landed her collaborations with MIKA on ‘Popular Song’ (momentarily resurrecting his career) and Mac Miller on summer hit, ‘The Way’. The duality of her style allows her to tour with popstar Justin Bieber and be interviewed by Hip Hop radio royalty Peter Rosenberg: the man who made it acceptable to play Odd Future on the radio. Yours Truly aims to unite (sometimes unsuccessfully) these two aspects: blatant commercial pop and old-school R&B.
‘Honeymoon Avenue’ is a cinematic introduction to Grande’s brand of romance. The soaring string introduction begins like something in an old Hollywood movie score, but transforms into an uptempo, 808 ballad that ends chopped and screwed. The ultimate throwback comes in the form of both ‘Tattooed Heart’ and ‘Daydreamin’ which are reminiscent of Doo Wop of the 50s and 60s. In the latter, Grande’s sultry voice coos “You and only you, got me daydreaming, with my chin in the palm of my hands” amid an intricate blues piano. Somehow, Grande manages to tastefully bridge the gap between old and new.
‘Baby I’ gives the best proof for the Mariah Carey comparisons. It is produced by Carey’s long-time collaborator Babyface and can be filed between Carey’s ‘Fantasy’ and ‘Heartbreaker’. Grande’s quick-fire hook, layered harmonies and vocal range that teeters on insanity makes it an instant smash. Grande has a few rap features, however this song outshines both other singles, ‘Right There’ and ‘The Way’, proving she can create a hit without the uninspiring help of Big Sean and Mac Miller.
A highlight of the album has to be ‘Almost is Never Enough’, soundtrack to the Mortal Instruments film. Featuring Nathan Sykes of The Wanted (bear with me), the song is a regretful ballad with such a sensitive and staggering vocal performance that even The Wanted can be forgiven for existing. Sykes and Grande’s musical chemistry is undeniable as their voices melt into each other.
The weakest parts of the album occur when Grande regresses back to bubblegum pop. Particularly after the emotion of ‘Almost is Never Enough’, the trivial nature of ‘Popular Song’ is disappointing. ‘Better Left Unsaid’ is better left forgotten. If anything, they only demonstrate the strength of the rest of the album, and show that mixing the commercial with the cool doesn’t always work.
Most may pass over this album because of her tween associations, but Grande has a talent that surpasses snobbery. If you can overlook her beginnings and want something to fill the 90s R&B shaped hole that was left in the music industry, Yours Truly could begin to fill the void. So early on in her career, the album is a more than solid start to Grande’s discography. With a streamlining of her material, future albums could realistically eclipse the success she has already had.
Yours Truly was released on Republic Records 30th August 2013.