Friday 5 September 2014

Dolly On ... Ariana Grande

I started this post a couple of weeks ago, before Ariana's new album came out, so where it was just going to be an opinions post, having heard My Everything, I'm also going to include a review of the album.

I discovered Ariana Grande at the beginning of 2013, before she'd actually released any music. There were teasers here and there, but it wasn't until February/March that I heard her first single The Way. I couldn't believe how good her voice was! For such a tiny lady, she has such a massive voice and an equally spectacular range. She then released a run of fantastic singles including Right There feat. Big Sean, Baby I and Almost Is Never Enough. At this point I was hooked, and caved in to buying her album. I was not disappointed, the album is the perfect mixture of 90s R'n'B and modern day appeal. Every song on Yours Truly is a stand out. In my opinion Ariana could do no wrong.

She was a pop star minus all of the controversy that you seem to need to have nowadays. Her songs are great without needing to be gratuitously explicit. Likewise with respect to her music videos. She was incredibly talented, yet inoffensive without being boring. I know it sounds like there's a big but coming, but there isn't. Not really. OK, so this year she has started wearing less clothes and stuff, but to me that's not offensive. What is offensive is her new music. To my ears. No, that's a joke. Kind of. Problem is a great song.

On my first listen to Ariana's new album My Everything, I have to admit I was disappointed. The first run of tracks, post Problem, are club anthems, not what I've come to expect from Ariana. Granted, the intro is sweet and dreamy, and you know me, I can never resist strings (and what sounds suspiciously like a steel drum), but where are the 90's R'n'B Mariah-esque tunes? At this point I was worried, but come track six, Best Mistake (feat. Big Sean), which I had already heard and loved, the album seems to turn around. Best Mistake is a completely new direction for Ariana, it's slow and moody, and Big Sean's verse actually reminds me of some early Frank Ocean. This is definitely my favourite song on the album, and I'm sure, with the current media speculation around their relationship, will be released as a single.

We then head into a series of collaborations, the Cashmere Cat produced Be My Baby which, although it is nothing special, the chorus is, admittedly, catchy. Then there's Break Your Heart Right Back featuring Childish Gambino and sampling I'm Coming Out (how could this not work, right?) that I loved from the first second. It opens with a stripped back beat and Ariana singing, almost rap-like, in her trademark falsetto. The song doesn't disappoint (compared to earlier tracks), with a strong pre-chorus and even stronger chorus. Things then slow down with The Weeknd duet Love Me Harder. When I first heard this I wasn't too keen, I thought it sounded pretty generic, but as soon as I thought that, The Weeknd comes in and saves what otherwise would be a pretty mediocre track.

At this point, about two thirds of the way through the album, all we've heard are songs that could've been sung by absolutely anyone. Although, as I've said, some of the tracks aren't terrible, it's not what I expected from Ariana's second album. We then move into the snore-fest that is Just A Little Bit Of Your Heart. It sounds like the kind of song Westlife would sing, and trust me, that's not a good thing. The penultimate track of the album is Hands On Me which I actually really like, just not coming from Ariana. I don't want to say it seems too grown up, because she's my age, and what right do I have to say that anyway? It just seems a bit weird is all. I like A$AP Ferg's bits, except the customary sexist language that rappers can't seem to do without.

The album ends with My Everything, which to me is very weird. It seems to me like Ariana chose the first and last song on her album, and then everything else she was forced to record. Although the lyrics, like all those on the album, are dull, repetitive and generic, Ariana's voice really carries this song, which is what I like to hear. She's a singer, and it's nice to hear her sing. I feel like I've been unnecessarily cruel in this review, but I'm just disappointed. I feel like Ariana was my secret this last year, and now it's come the time to share it with the world, she's come out with an album that's no where near what I've been telling everyone to expect.

The album is not bad, it's just not as good as I wanted it to be. What Ariana accomplished with Yours Truly was reminiscent of a young Mariah, whereas with My Everything she seems to have thrown all of that in in favour of club beats and hip-hop collaborations. It's not a move I would have liked her to take, but I understand that it's these overproduced, generic club beats that sell records. All I can hope is that the fame and attention she's gained from this album will draw people back to her first and, in my opinion, her stronger songs.

Where's this Ariana? I want more songs like Baby I.

To read the rest of the Dolly On ... series, click here!

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