After scooping the VMA for Best Pop Video the other week for her single, “Problem” featuring Iggy Azalea, Ariana Grande’s second album is crammed with other big-name collaborations. Although her first album, Yours Truly, released just a year before, and recognition outside the US might not have been as extensive, My Everything has definitely earned her acclaim with pop fans globally. Azalea’s presence on “Problem” arguably first drew greater attention, raising the stakes with an overall higher profile track list. That being said, it is the bigger and noticeably more confident pop/R&B sound that Grande herself has put into this particular track that keeps fans hooked.
Much like the first single off the album, on “Break Free” Grande teams up with DJ and music producer Zedd to create this instant dance floor hit. “Break Your Heart Right Back” featuring Childish Gambino possibly follows “Problem” as a highpoint on the album, mimicking Notorious B.I.G. in sampling Diana Ross’ “I’m Coming Out.” Instead Grande channels a more empowered pop/R&B sound on this track. Grande’s overwhelmingly powerful but sugary-sweet voice, compared frequently to a younger Mariah Carey, perfectly complements that of The Weeknd, who accompanies her on “Love Me Harder.” “Hands On Me” similarly charts Grande’s departure from Nickelodeon teen star, and this effort to establish herself as an adult in the public eye and in the music industry is echoed in “Bang Bang” featuring Nicki Minaj and Jessie J. This particular track, though having been hotly tipped as one of triumphs on the album, disappoints in being just ever so slightly generic in its pop sound and with a kind of awkwardly fitting cameo by Nicki Minaj.
“Best Mistake” is yet another track that more than compensates for the brief unexciting notes on the album. Grande duets with boyfriend Big Sean, and the song has an unmistakable 90s soulful R&B-girlband-ballad-type vibe. “Be My Baby” is possibly the most Mariah Carey-esque track of the entire record, down to Grande’s initial voice-wobble intro and her husky tone throughout. However, Grande brings this sound forward a decade, which is where you can see the combination in her sound that has come under the influence of her producer on “Yours Truly,” Babyface. She mixes instrumental in that 90s R&B era, with more pop-hit producers like Ryan Tedder and Benny Blanco.
Grande has come a long way from her teen TV fame and Broadway beginnings and is now asserting herself as a fully-fledged adult female solo artist; she has moved in this direction impressively faster than her teen contemporaries. The album is overall relentless in throwing out chart hit after hit, and while it might be a little flatter in parts (unfortunately mostly when solo without collaborations), it succeeds as a revival of 90s R&B/pop with a bit of a twist.