Of all people, it looks like we have none other than Hollywood director Baz Luhrmann and his version of The Great Gatsby for the current trend in swing'n'b pop music that is ruling the charts at the moment. Between Jessie J's "Bang Bang" (on the deluxe version of this album), Taylor Swift's latest "Shake It Off" and Grande's own first single "Problem", dub-step is over, it's all about sax-appeal now.
It's been less than a year since Grande released her debut album, and in the interim it would appear that the biggest and brightest producers in the world have decided that she is going to be The Next Big Thing. With the pop princess throne currently vacant – Rihanna is AWOL, Britney and Christina are over the hill, Lady GaGa doesn't seem bothered anymore, Katy Perry has been releasing the same single for the last three years – it's probably about time we ushered in someone with actual vocal talent to back up the easy-to-sell aesthetics.
"Problem" kicks off a killer run of potential singles, itself being one of the best pop songs of the year, with David Guetta having a hand in mid-tempo banger "One Last Try", quickly followed a Ryan Tedder/Benny Blanco co-produced (see, we weren't kidding about the big names!) drum-based screamalong ballad "Why Try".
Next up there's single number two "Break Free" courtesy of Gaga cohort Zedd, which is (whisper it) probably even catchier than "Problem", and is just begging to sung along to in gay clubs the world over. It's when things slow right down that things start to get a bit wobbly, with the likes of "Best Mistake", Harry Styles penned "Just A Little Bit Of Your Heart" and album closer "My Everything" proving that Grande is still in need of that one Mariah Carey-esque heartbreakingly sad love song to really push her over the edge into superstardom. If there's one thing this album is missing, it's a potential Christmas Number One.
But then we're right back to foot-tapping and finger clicking along with 90s R'n'B throwback "Be My Baby" which sounds like it's sampling some unknown hip-hop classic. Then we get a song which is sampling an actual hip-hop classic; "Break Your Heart Heart Right Back", built on Diana Ross's "I'm Coming Out" as well as Notorious BIG's "Mo Money Mo Problems", is apparently about Grande's ex-boyfriend who cheated on her with another guy, but is hampered by a first verse of near indecipherable lyrics as Grande confuses loudly exhaling with actual singing. Darkchild comes in towards the end of the party to remind us what 2002 sounded like with "Hands On Me", which is definitely something you could imagine Destiny's Child releasing back in the day… take that as a compliment/insult as you see fit.
Getting in some great just-left-of-centre featuring artists – Iggy Azealia, Big Sean, Cashmere Cat, ASAP Ferg, Childish Gambino - all culminates with the best collaboration on the album, "Love Me Harder" with hipster approved The Weeknd. What the kids would call ‘a bedroom banger', with the post-chorus refrain of ‘Love me love me love me… Harder harder harder…": it's Grande at her most obviously sexy without being overly explicit, and it works fantastically.
About as polished and accomplished as you can expect from a sophomore pop album, My Everything isn't exactly profound or insightful, but sometimes just having a good time is more than a good enough.
Review by Rory Cashin | FOUR STARS