Singer and Nickelodeon star Ariana Grande released her debut album, “Yours Truly,” on Tuesday. The 12-track record sees the 20-year-old artist treading between an early 2000s R&B sound and throwback doo-wop while still keeping it all modern. Her big and theatrical voice flutters in all the right places on this sugary sweet album of love tunes.
The album's best is “Baby I,” an upbeat and shuffling R&B track coated in disco beats. A THX movie intro-like sound ushers in Grande's big voice, which glides over the song like Mariah Carey's in the '90s. She is head-over-heels in love, but doesn't know how to get that across. "I get all tongue-tied and twisted / I can't explain what I'm feeling," Ariana sweetly sings. Grande channels even more Carey on “The Way,” another standout. This time she goes the whole nine yards, hitting the high notes like a seasoned pro but never overdoing it. The breezy Big Pun/Brenda Russell sample backs her fun and flirty vocals while rapper Mac Miller adds a little something extra. The Mariah comparisons might be getting tired but Grande rightfully warrants the hype with her diva vocal acrobatics.
On the piano-driven R&B ballad “Almost is Never Enough,” Grande gives her best vocal performance. She teams up with The Wanted's Nathan Sykes (who surprisingly keeps up with her big voice). The two sing about a love that is sadly never fully realized. Grande drives home the emotion of the track with the control and restraint in her delivery, hitting the upper tiers of her range when stylistically necessary. Together, they perfectly convey that “so close and yet so far away” feeling.
Concerning the doo-wop tunes on “Yours Truly,” Grande knocks it out of the park. Like how Bruno Mars sounded at home in the genre on his debut album, she finds her groove among the vintage finger snaps and group harmonies. The best of the bunch is “Tattooed Heart,” a light little pop number where Ariana professes her love vocally to higher heavens. With a background in theater, she is able to play that sultry and sweet character on the track with absolute ease and charm. Similarly, she pulls off the '50s crooner sound on “Daydreamin',” another ode to love with an electronic lean, and “Honeymoon Avenue,” a sweeping R&B update of doo-wop. Though Ariana tackles an older sound, the songs never come off as dated because she livens them up with her perky vocals.
There are also a few pop tracks, including “Popular Song,” Grande's collaboration with British singer-songwriter MIKA. The two work a cute song around “Popular” from “Wicked.” It's an infectious and quirky take on the Broadway tune. Ariana later gets the party started on “Better Left Unsaid,” a dance track with an ethereal edge.
Grande supplies some legitimate tracks on her album that aren't Radio Disney fodder like usual child stars' debut albums. Instead of cashing in on the electro-pop trend of the moment, she pulls from older sounds to craft a record that is refreshing in every way. On “Yours Truly,” Ariana is first and foremost a musician who happens to have a Nickelodeon background and a great debut album.
Listen to "Yours Truly" on Spotify.com
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