Dear (insert your name here),
Yours Truly by Ariana Grande exhibits a variety of pleasing musical styles that will appeal to most of the people you know. It was probably designed to do so.
While this is Grande’s first album, you may remember her from the Nickelodeon shows Victorious and Sam & Cat. I’ve never seen her shows, because I’m too busy watching stuff for big kids, like Game of Thrones or Pretty Little Liars.
The first thing that will strike me about Grande is that she sounds like Mariah Carey, especially since they both love to demonstrate the limits of their vocal range. While Grande’s voice isn’t as powerful as Carey’s, it is still a great voice.
Musically, this album most resembles The 20/20 Experience; in fact, Truly Yours’ opener, “Honeymoon Avenue,” sounds a lot like “Pusher Love Girl.” Most of the songs are tied together with an early 90s R&B sound—Babyface produced almost half of the album—although there are a few stylistic deviations into doowop.
The other thing that struck me about her is her innocent image. Sex is the last thing on Grande’s mind; these are songs about love and courtship. This innocence spills over to the guest stars as well: Mac Miller sounds like a greaser in a 50s movie and you would never guess that Big Sean once wrote an ode to women’s asses two years ago.
In fact, one of these collaborations does not work at all. British popstar Mika’s version of “Popular” from Wicked, which features Grande, appears in full here. It’s an okay song but it feels totally jarring because it sounds like nothing else on the album.
This is also the “KDVS music snob” in me but I’m bothered by what I believe to be an artificial feel to an album that is trying to be passed off as a sincere work from the heart. All but one of the songs feature at least five co-writers, yet the album’s title is supposed to be the signature to a love letter.
I know it’s petty, especially since this is a bubblegum pop album that wasn’t striving to be capital-A Art, but I feel like the mass influx of producers and writers who worked on this album caused some of its essence to be diluted. It feels like my girlfriend gave me a corporate-ass “I Choo-Choo-Choose You” Valentine’s Day card and claimed it was a handmade gift that was only for me.
Despite this, Yours Truly is a delightful romp. There are some great songs (“Baby I,” “Honeymoon Avenue” and “The Way” are standouts) and Ariana Grande is a talent to watch. I just hope that she gets more artistic control next time.
Three and a half stars
PS – You’ll love this album if you like Justin Timberlake, Mariah Carey and TLC!