If you’re yet to hear the name Ariana Grande, this album will emblazon not only her name, but also her angelic voice into your minds. The young starlet, only 20, already has a large fan following in the U.S. as a result of her role as Kat Valentine on the Nickelodeon sitcom Vic- torious. But don’t let her bubblegum pop image or association with Nickelodeon fool you – Grande is a serious artist. One need only listen to her debut album Yours Truly to discover just how talented she really is.
Bursting with a colourful variation of both classic and contempo- rary R&B beats, Yours Truly elevates the traditional R&B genre into a wonderfully modern interpretation. Her album is driven by the indul- gence of nostalgia, though her voice ensures that her songs never feel out of date or insincere.
Powered by a commanding, Broadway-honed voice, Grande is able to seamlessly weave between soft breathy vocals and a striking tonality that soars with power and believability. Grande’s bravura, yet gentle vocals have been consistently compared to one of the greatest vocalists of all time – Mariah Carey.
Her debut offering only solidifies this association, as she infuses deftly tender vocals into urban pop songs that call to mind an ear- ly-day Mimi – not surprising given that songwriter Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, who co-wrote several Carey songs, serves as both writer and producer on the album.
Opening track ‘Honeymoon Avenue’ introduces the listener to a chorus of classic doo-wop styling that sets a ruminative R&B flavour for the remainder of the album. The production on this song is reminiscent of Justin Timberlake’s ‘Pusher Love Girl’ (off The 20/20 Experience), positioning Grande as a female equivalent to Timberlake’s similarly smooth R&B style.
The singles off the album highlight Grande’s ability to fuse pop and R&B effortlessly, not unlike how Mariah Carey has throughout her career. Lead single ‘The Way’ featuring Mac Miller has already proven hit-worthy, becoming Grande’s first top ten hit on the Billboard Hot 100. Here, she utilises a deep resonant tone with hints of a pitch perfect whistle register that pierce through playful piano riffs and old school R&B beats.
Standout tracks on the album include the up-tempo R&B song ‘You’ll Never Know,’ which blends throwback 90s beats with a light-hearted delivery of vocals. ‘Piano’, meanwhile, is a pure pop song that sparkles with a clapping beat and a sparse undertone of piano loops. The song is easily classifiable as a summer beach jam with lyrics like “but I rather make a song they can play on the radio that makes you wanna grab your lover’s hands.”
Piano ballad ‘Almost is Never Enough’ featuring The Wanted’s Na- than Sykes is the most poignant moment on the album, offering the only glimpse into the emotional vulnerability of Grande. The track is reminis- cent of Mariah Carey’s duet with Boys II Men, ‘One Sweet Day’, which retains the record of longest weeks at #1 on the US Billboard charts.
Ariana Grande seems perfectly at home amongst such illustrious company. And whilst her powerful voice and fondness for old school R&B will always draw comparisons with the awe-inspiring Mariah Carey, Grande should not be overlooked as a distinct artist in her own right.