We wouldn’t be surprised if Ariana Grande managed to evade you during the release of her debut album Yours Truly. The LP – a collection of sprightly R&B interspersed with ‘50s doo-wop - peaked at Number 7 on the UK's Official Albums Chart last year but failed to be a big seller; her fan base at the time limited largely to those familiar with her Nickelodeon shows Victorious and Sam & Cat.
Fast-forward 12 months, and these days she’s practically unavoidable. Shortly after Yours Truly, Ariana was put to work on album two and put out its lead single - the brassy, sassy, Iggy Azalea-assisted Problem. The track was an instant hit across the globe, entering the Top 10 in more than 20 countries and topping the UK's Official Singles Chart earlier this year.
But does the rest of her second record – titled My Everything – live up to the same standard? Official Charts were given an early listen to the album and we’ve posted our thoughts below.
Intros can often feel like a strange thing on a pop album, unless there’s a particularly strong concept or story being told. Here, Ariana sets the scene by cooing: “I’ll give you all I have and nothing less, I promise,” over twinkly R&B beats for a minute or so. Given it sounds like a message to her fans rather than an ode to a specific person, it's a sweet sentiment rather than needless addition.
You all know this one by now; a saxy, no-nonsense kiss-off to an errant lover. In the context of the album, it feels like the perfect lead single, bridging the gap between the sound of her debut and what’s about to follow.
3. One Last Time
Like her current single Break Free, My Everything finds Ariana occasionally stray away from R&B into EDM-light pop. One Last Time is another one of these instances, and it suits her better than you’d think. The singer reigns in her powerful pipes on this breezy and wistful club track produced by hitmaker to just about everyone Max Martin. “So one last time, I need to be the one who takes you home,” she declares like a woman obsessed on the chorus. Would you believe us if we told you it didn’t sound the least bit sleazy? In fact, it reminded us a lot of Loreen’s 2012 Eurovision winner Euphoria.
4. Why Try
Before this song was played, we were told it was produced by OneRepbulic’s Ryan Tedder and Benny Blanco, both of which have a silly amount of hits to their names, so naturally our expectations were high. With its militant drum rolls, lyrics about “living with devils and angels” and booming midtempo melody, it’s a typically Tedder production, but Ariana makes it her own in the show-stopping finale. There’s also a lot of “na-na-na” hooks in this one, so we suspect this will be single at some point.
5. Break Free (ft. Zedd)
Most of you will be familiar with this one, and if not, you can watch the brilliantly ridiculous music video for it below. When Ariana first unveiled this song there was uproar amongst some of her fans that she was trading in her R&B sound for an easy chart hit. And while to some extent that may be true, Break Free is still a very good pop song whichever way you look at it.
6. Best Mistake (ft. Big Sean)
The album’s first of three ballads features Big Sean, who was heard earlier whispering sweet nothings to Ariana on Problem. “You ask why I love your mum so much, ‘cause she’s an older you,” he raps here over spacious but weighty beats; and rather than giving him a slap around the chops, she purrs back: “I’ll be saving all my love for you.” The result feels like an extension of Yours Truly, albeit moodier and more grown up.
7. Be My Baby (ft. Chasmere Cat)
This bouncy R&B jam was helmed once again by Blanco and is essentially Ariana’s criterion for anyone wanting to be in a relationship with her. “I promise if you keep it real with me… you can get anything you want,” she sings over a melody reminiscent of early ‘00s R&B divas Ashanti, Brandy and Ameriie.
8. Break Your Heart Right Back (ft. Childish Gambino)
It’s easy to see why Ariana has been talking about this song in the press of late: a track about her boyfriend cheating on her with another guy isn’t your usual subject matter. “I know you’re mad ‘cause I found out/ Want you to feel what I feel right now,” she sings over brassy, finger-snapping beats. And while she insists she was never 100% certain it happened, the track’s sampling of the Diana Ross classic I’m Coming Out sounds like she’s pretty clear on the situation.
9. Love Me Harder (ft. The Weeknd)
A track that slots neatly under the label of ‘midtempo R&B banger’ and easily wins the title of sexiest song on the album. Over throbbing yet moody electro&B beats, a normally downcast Weeknd sings: “Can you feel the pressure between your hips/ I’ll make you feel like the first time”. The result a sultry number that reminds us of Drake at his most emotional, i.e 2010’s Find Your Love and last year’s Hold On, We’re Going Home.
10. A Little Bit Of Your Heart
The album’s second ballad is significantly weaker than the first, though it does hold the accolade of being written “specifically written for Ariana” by none other than Harry Styles. As far as piano ballads go, it’s packed with the usual heartfelt lyrics (“I know I’m not your only, but at least I’m one”) and a cooing choir for the finale, but truth be told it's easily forgotten compared to the strength of the rest of the material here.
11. Hands On Me
The mood switches dramatically for Hands On Me, which essentially sounds like a mashup of Rihanna’s Cockiness and Iggy Azalea’s Fancy. “Don’t let these eyes fool ya, I can take it/ Hold nothing back, Give it to me” she insists over hectic hip-hop beats. A$AP Ferg is a welcome addition to the song, his frantic rap style playfully bouncing off Ariana’s twerkable verses.
12. My Everything
Ariana rounds things off with a ballad about her regret over a break-up. “He wasn’t my everything ‘til we were nothing,” she sings, her powerful vocal restrained yet gliding effortlessly over little more than a piano. It’s not the strongest note to end things on, but when you’ve got an album with seven potential smashes on it, there’s really no need for closure at this point.
Ariana Grande releases My Everything on August 25.