Album Review: Ariana Grande's Yours Truly

It is not worth mincing words about Ariana Grande's Yours Truly: the debut record is one of the best albums this year. What makes it work hinges on its high dosage of nostalgia with modern touches. Yours Truly will get a lot of comparisons to Mariah Carey's early albums, but it shares even more in common with Whitney Houston's I'm Your Baby Tonight. Like Houston's LP, Grande's album presents a girl-next-door who is sweet but not naive, and while she has a taste for bad boys, she is interested in love and commitment too. Not coincidentally, both albums share Babyface as a major creative presence, claiming significant producer and songwriting credits. Just as Babybace helped Houston integrate urban sounds, R and B, and ballads, he creates similar soundscapes and textures for Grande. She can play the good girl counterpart to the player-turned-head-over-heels-romantic rhymes by Big Sean and Mac Miller on the excellent collabs, "Right There" and top-ten hit, "The Way." Grande also sounds at ease with the pop confection of "Honeymoon Avenue," the sugar-rush of "Baby I," the mid-century girl-group balladry of "Tattooed Heart," the Broadway antics of "Popular Song" with Mika, and the dance party of the closer, "Better Left Unsaid." What results is a cohesive, earnest album that shows Grande to be an artist with class, excellent taste, reverence for her pop music heritage, and a strong sense of her own artistic identity.

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