Likes: Best Mistake, Be My Baby, Break Your Heart Right Back
Dislikes: Break Free, Love Me Harder
Overall: Ariana doesn’t sound enthused, therefore it’s hard for the listener to be
Considering “My Everything” comes just 1 year (5 days short to be exact) after Ariana Grande’s debut, “Yours Truly,” I shouldn’t be surprised or annoyed that it has a lot of the same issues (with a few more added to the list), but alas, I am. It’s aggravating as hell that Grande doesn’t know what to do with her gorgeous chops. I’ve never heard someone sing with such a bewildering dearth of enthusiasm and personality. Her lethargy highlights the generics and weaknesses in the material, making the deciding difference from liking or loving the songs. It also keeps her from being distinct beyond mimicking Mariah Carey. Her marketing and creative direction teams clearly haven’t figured out who she is either, going from 0-100 with sexuality and slapping flavorless EDM (electronic dance music) on the record. Following “Yours Truly,” a frequent criticism was that Grande relied too heavily on throwback R&B samples for hits and was postured juvenilely, both musically and in image (ponytails and sweet 16 party dresses). So the answer was to turn to opposite extremes? Why avert from the 1 thing that could be Grande’s designation instead of tweaking the sound from throwback R&B-sampled to throwback R&B-inspired? Why go from fairly innocent to something like Kelly Rowland’s “Motivation” (“Love Me Harder”), when she can remain accessible to multiple age groups with a well-written, moderately-sensual love song (ex. Mariah Carey’s “Honey”)? The album’s tracklist is just as bi-polar. The intro is floating and dreamy, hinting at a romantic journey….then “Problem,” a song about getting the courage to dump a guy, comes on. It flip-flops in subject from there. With a little rearrangement, “My Everything” just might tell a story. Consistency was applied in an area that didn’t need it--stylistically, there’s an EDM trio (Grande’s voice is most bland on “Break Free”), trailed by an R&B trio, then ballads sandwiched between 1 of each genre. The deluxe edition has 3 extra tracks that help the album seem more complete. Curiously, the charting single “Bang Bang” with Jessie J and Nicki Minaj, is 1 of them. The premise of “You Don’t Know Me,” 1 of 2 songs co-penned by Grande, is amusing with lyrics like “If you want a perfect picture to believe in, then you can't be looking for me then… I know you don't like it…you don't know where I've been, it's my life…the girl you see in photographs is only a part of the one I am, don't judge me…,” as if she’s been around long enough and reached the megastar status to resent role-model expectations and fighting brutal scrutiny under the spotlight. Yes, she was on the Nickelodeon series Victorious for 3 years, but she wasn’t the main character or even the main character’s best friend. She was a lead on the spinoff “Sam & Cat,” but that lasted for only 1 season. Basically, she isn’t anywhere near having the Britney Spears experience right now. It’s not quite time for “Kill the Lights.” The title track isn’t worthy of being so; it’s kind of skip-able and weirdly the shortest cut besides the intro.
This record isn’t garbage, but my ears are bored and restless sitting in this environment of indifference in mainstream pop. It’s especially frustrating when all it takes is a few nips and tucks to push an album or song from, as I said earlier, “like” to “love.” This is a small detail, but even the cover artwork for both of Grande’s LP’s are similar! We’re not even putting effort into the artwork?! I understand that Republic Records wants to get it while it’s hot, but the plate’s going to cool off if you run around with it. If they’re going to make Grande release albums at a rapid pace, they need to at least make a few changes. Go from sampled to inspired, mature her gradually and help her improve her stage and studio presence. Give her Powerade, a Snickers or something. Since she’s one of the few newer artists with actual vocal ability, I’ll still hang on.