Release Date: Sep 3, 2013
Record label: Island
Genre(s): Pop, R&B, Vocal, Dance-Pop, Contemporary R&B
At the beginning of her seemingly out-of-nowhere hit lead single “The Way”, a voice says, “We gotta go back… back into time.” And Ariana Grande, the latest Nickelodeon-turned-pop star, follows this advice enthusiastically on her debut album. To ‘when’, exactly, in time, is less clear though. The 12 songs on the album are filled with vintage chord progressions and nostalgia-tinged clichés, but from many different points on the musical timeline.
The debut album from Ariana Grande, 2013's Yours Truly, is a surprisingly sophisticated and unique showcase for the Nickelodeon sitcom star's soulful R&B vocals. As the character Cat Valentine on several Nickelodeon television shows including I Carly, Victorious, and Sam & Cat, Grande developed a huge fan following and the expectations were high for her debut album. Three years in the making and held up by numerous delays, Yours Truly lives up to those expectations.
Ariana Grande, a teenage actress turned singer, is bubblegum through-and-through-- and she’s already changed her preferred flavor. Her debut single, 2011’s 4 Non Blondes-sampling “Put Your Hearts Up”, was a generic Disney radio tune that she now publicly disavows. Apparently asserting control over her career, she's now dabbling in nostalgia, as is instantly clear when Hollywood strings and doo-wop vocals kick off the 1950s-styled “Honeymoon Avenue", the first song from her debut album.
The lucid and the cryptic mingle, unpredictably and strategically, in the songs on Neko Case’s sixth solo studio album, “The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You.” Usually it’s the music that comes across as straightforward. The melodies are forthright, the arrangements are hand played, and Ms. Case’s voice is open and robust, with the richness of prime Linda Ronstadt and Patsy Cline.
Miley Cyrus wasn’t the only kiddie-culture veteran looking to make a grownup splash on the MTV Video Music Awards last month. Though the former “Hannah Montana” star thoroughly dominated discussion of the telecast with the Twerk Heard ’Round the World, viewers tuning into the VMA pre-show could also see Ariana Grande – late of Nickelodeon’s “Victorious,” now on the network’s “Sam & Cat” – flexing her post-Mariah Carey melisma during a performance of her top 10 hit “The Way” on the red carpet outside Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. “I got a bad boy, I must admit it,” she sang, “You got my heart, don’t know how you did it.” This is a modal window.
With every new episode of Sam & Cat, it becomes easier to imagine the bigwigs at Nickelodeon as nefarious, hand-wringing wicked stepmothers to Ariana Grande’s Cinderella, forcing her to say increasingly fucking stupid lines (“Look at this cute dog! It’s named Dang-er!” “That’s Danger.” “Where!?!”) before she inevitably soars into full-blown pop stardom, which, by all rights, should be pretty soon. Grande’s incredibly easy to root for. She’s got crazy pipes, for starters, recalling Mariah Carey as she riffs all over nearly-sexless R&B that plays directly into a carefully cultivated chaste image.