You only need to get about four seconds into My Everything to understand where those Mariah comparisons come from – we haven’t heard breathy coos like those on Intro since the heady days of Fantasy. But Ariana Grande has certainly proven herself as more than being a Mimi knock-off. After dropping quite easily the best pop song of the year so far in the form of Problem, it’s hard to see how the former Nickelodeon star could be anything but a proper pop contender.
What Grande brings as opposed to most of her peers is freshness, wrapped in airtight production. From the youthful bombast of Hands On Me (single material, everyone) to the gorgeous title track, there’s no question that Grande is the poster-girl for modern pop. There’s a level of energy and quality that most of the record effortlessly breezes past: Why Try is one of the most mellifluous, palatable ballads of the year; Be My Baby is just such instant-win Cashmere Cat-driven R&B that it seems ridiculous that it hasn’t been done before. Even the Faith/Puffy back-and-forth with Childish Gambino proves endearing on Break Your Heart Right Back (which even samples Diana Ross to prop up its unsubtle premise).
Flaws? Inevitable but forgivable. We can skip over the sub-Guetta pop of One Last Time, but The Weeknd is hard to ignore on Love Me Harder. This a man bordering so close to self-parody that he’s destroying a perfectly great Grande song, which is a feat not even Iggy Azalea managed. Says everything, really.
So then, this talk of being the next Mariah Carey. While that chanteuse is proving more and more elusive, Grande definitely seems to be capturing this generation’s pop spirit better than her predecessors can right now, and there are so many ways in which Grande fills the void that Mimi and even J-Lo left during the 00s (right down to the borderline-passé rap collaborations, where Ja Rule has now become Big Sean). In that respect, My Everything feels like the best Mariah Carey album we’re likely to get this decade, and Grande unquestionably the new diva we’ve all been looking for.