Ariana Grande, “Yours Truly” (Republic Records)
While Miley Cyrus is being a wild child to demonstrate she is growing up, Ariana Grande is letting her music do all the talking.
The 20-year-old singer-actress, one of the stars of Nickelodeon’s “Victorious” and the network’s spinoff “Sam and Cat,” is in near-perfect form on her debut, mainly thanks to her Mariah Carey-esque vocals and songs written by Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds.
“Yours Truly” kicks off with the R&B-flavored, near-6 minute “Honeymoon Avenue.” It’s dreamy, velvety and warm, and backed with shoo-be-doos and violins. It sounds as good as a Justin Timberlake intro.
Grande uses her voice as an instrument throughout the 12-track set: “Baby I,” with its finger snaps, features her screaming high notes; “Tattooed Heart” and “Daydreamin” are A-List ballads; and on “The Way,” her lead single and Top 10 hit, Grande’s voice sounds like a Carey-Toni Braxton mash-up.
Her breakthrough comes at a time when other former Disney-Nickelodeon stars have pop hits – Cyrus and Selena Gomez are following the Rihanna track with “We Can’t Stop” and “Come & Get It,” while Demi Lovato’s latest sound mirrors Kelly Clarkson. But Grande is looking back to a ’90s R&B-pop feel on her debut – and her formula works better than the others. “Almost is Never Enough,” a duet with The Wanted’s best vocalist, Nathan Sykes, sounds classic and the Big Sean-assisted “Right There,” which samples Jeff Lorber’s “Rain Dance” – also sampled for Lil Kim’s “Crush on You” – could easily be a No. 1 hit.
Carey should be proud.