By Patrick Campbell
Released August 30th, 2013 - UMusic
If you are mildly in touch with pop-culture you will know who Ariana Grande is. She had red hair for a bit, she acts like a cute, clueless girl for TV shows and she seems to have a set of pipes on her that can push out a tune or two. So when it was announced that she was the latest child television star to gain a record deal, I thought that possibly she could be the one to actually make something worthwhile out of it. Sadly this album has turned into another disappointment.
When I heard the title I expected an album of soppy love songs, and it is an album of love songs, but soppy? Not particularly. There are strings and pianos and her voice floating through them, but there's also hip-hop beats and vocal distortion like something out of a Vampire Weekend album. And that's only the first track. I would have liked that track, if it hadn't been for the tacky street noises at the start being drowned out by a barbershop quartet. This basically set the theme for the entire album, it's not soppy love songs, it's tacky love songs with 90s RnB beats thrown in and weird breakdowns in the middle of some songs. I can see what they wanted to do with this album, she wanted beautiful songs telling stories of romance and love, and a throwback to her youth, and something ground-breaking. But you can't have all that, so instead she has ended up with a detached mess of songs which barely work on their own.
Her label has taken the typical approach when it comes to this sort of situation; they've thrown a bunch of songs from other writers at Grande, and put her as the face and voice behind them, making her the latestSelena Gomez, but with a voice that is mildly special. I have nothing against this process, but you'd be expecting some better songs to come out of it. At some point you think someone would have put their hand up and said "How many songs is it ok to start off with her waffling about on a few notes cutely?" This happens in half the album and frankly it gets boring. In reality the whole album does, it's a misguided attempt at taking something old and making it new.
There are a few tracks that do standout, Piano is an obvious choice for the next single, being upbeat and catchy, and the original single The Way is still mildly bearable, even with her "exciting" and "special" whistle tones. Another stand out track is Tattooed Heart, simply because it best displays her vocal skills without covering it up with huge amounts of unnecessary instrumentation. It's her attempt at Beyonce's Love On Topin a way, just a simple song about love which just keeps building. I am in no way saying that this song is on Beyonce's level, it's not, and I doubt anything Ariana Grande does will ever reach that level, but she is trying.
In the end that's what I think about this album; she tried. It's not great, it's not bad. It's just an album of weird pop music catering to a very specified audience. Grande is definitely talented, but right now everything is not there when it needs to be.
2 / 5