Ariana Grande’s debut album Yours Truly is, in a word, innocuous. At a time when the world is pooping its collective pants over any number of pop artists’ wild child behaviors, Grande sings about daydreaming and “going steady” in a manner that is so earnest you almost believe her. This type of overstated innocence could be an interesting addition to pop, if only the music held up.
And, for the most part, it doesn’t. The album’s two lead singles, “The Way” and “Baby I,” are forgettable fragments of quasi-R&B/pop fusion, and “Almost is Never Enough,” a duet with The Wanted’s Nathan Sykes, is basically a five minute snore-fest of a ballad.
Grande is, however, undeniably talented and her Broadway roots are prominently displayed throughout the album. She has garnered endless, but valid, comparisons to divas of decades past like Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. Sometimes, on a track like “Daydreamin’,” you can hear in Grande the potential for a long, long career of belting and riffing.
Yours Truly is at its best when it succumbs wholeheartedly to musical gimmickry. “Tattooed Heart” could be a forgotten track by some ’60’s girl group, and “Popular Song,” which features Mika, recycles the melody from “Popular” (yep, straight off of the Wicked soundtrack). But in spite of the fun, self-conscious cheesiness of these songs, the majority of the album lacks personality. Mostly, Yours Truly sounds like a funny mix of Mariah Carey covers and radio filler songs. Grande, for all her talent, can (and should) do better than that.