Album Review: ‘Yours Truly’: Ariana Grande’s surprisingly strong debut

Maggie Mcginity

Drop any preconceived notions about Ariana Grande and her debut album, “Yours Truly,” before listening to it. Yes, Grande is also an actress, starring as Cat Valentine on Nickelodeon’s “Victorious” and “Sam and Cat,” but she doesn’t fit the actress-turned-singer mold. Grande helped write half of the songs on her debut album and, instead of falling in line with the current trendiest genre, modeled “Yours Truly” after ’90s R&B and pop music.

As a throwback album, “Yours Truly” is a success, and is refreshing in an “everything old is new again” kind of way. Grande’s vocal talent is one of the best parts of this album. Her singing style and range is remarkably similar to that of Mariah Carey, yet still fits in with the few doo-wop, ’50s-themed songs on this album. Leaping decades between and within songs, Grande blends ’90s R&B and modern rap/hip-hop well, with the assistance of a number of featured artists, including Mac Miller on hit single “The Way,” Big Sean and Nathan Sykes.

One multi-artist track, “Popular Song” with MIKA, doesn’t fit in with the rest of “Yours Truly” in terms of not only musical style but subject matter. One of the few negative aspects of this album is the limited subject matter. Grande explores love, and only love. Happy love, sexy love, ’50s love, broken love, love that almost was. No other subjects, issues and/or concerns are discussed or even briefly mentioned on this album, except for popularity/nonpopularity.

“Popular Song” is part revenge-by-success song and part be-yourself-no-matter-what-song. It’s a fun, bouncy and idealistic song. However, it also features the chorus of “Popular” from the musical “Wicked” with new lyrics, which turn the meaning of the original song on its head. Hearing this can be quite disconcerting for fans already familiar with the musical. This feel-good track makes perfect sense for quirky MIKA, but is not cohesive with Grande’s R&B love letter of an album.

Overall, “Yours Truly” is a strong debut, especially for an artist largely known for her work on television. With a shallow pool of lyrics and a depth of talent, Grande’s music is perfect for anyone from a pre-teen to a fully-grown adult looking for a light and lovable listen.