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Ariana Grande - 'My Everything' (Album Review)

Wednesday, 27 August 2014 Written by Gavin Rees

There are few nobler pursuits than attempting to write the perfect pop song. It has preoccupied bedroom romantics for decades, teams of crack songwriters and pop factories for almost as long. Now, though, we appear to be in the midst of the pop song’s industrial revolution. Chart bothering is now being conducted on a mechanised, all-conquering scale.

The credits on Ariana Grande’s second album read like those of a Lord Of The Rings film, with her writing supplemented by contributions from David Guetta, Sean Combs, Max Martin, Nile Rodgers, The Weeknd and Shellback, among many others.

There is a clear formula at work, with her crisp, clean vocals augmented by new fangled EDM beats, tiered harmonies and guest verses from Big Sean, A$AP Ferg, Childish Gambino and, most notably, Iggy Azalea.

Problem represents one of the summer’s biggest hits, with its sax lick and whispered chorus laying a platform for Grande and Azalea to play off one another. It’s bold, fierce and great fun, but after Azalea signs off with one of the year’s neatest lines, there’s nothing here to hit the same levels of bite and personality.

Grande’s stuck between stations a little, with her natural vocal style nicely suited to the many ballads on ‘My Everything’ but cut adrift by its vacuum packed forays into dance. With this many cooks crowded around the pot it was inevitable that something of her would be lost in translation, but it’s doubtful that they intended to airbrush to this extent.

On One Last Time and Why Try we see Grande as the Mariah Carey successor many initially pegged her to be, with the former offering a neat arrangement and ascending backing vocals and the latter harking back to the retro-soul of her debut. Largely, both work.

Conversely, Break Free is perhaps the best example of Grande shoehorning something more contemporary into her repertoire with little effect. A collaboration with Zedd, it could, aside from her brief chorus hook, be any one of 500 EDM tunes. Grande clearly has what it takes to join pop’s elite. But, to do more than make up the numbers, she needs to offer more than this. There are only so many cookie cutter dancefloor ‘hits’ that the world can take.

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