On her surprisingly cohesive debut, last year’s Yours Truly, former Nickelodeon star Ariana Grande showed off her outsize pipes on throwback R&B songs, inviting widespread comparisons to Mariah Carey. Her sophomore set, My Everything, includes that sound–alongside about a dozen others, plus guest spots from no fewer than seven other artists. Grande deftly flits from pounding house to spare alt-soul to doo-wop-pop, but no glue holds it together. Fortunately, the songs are top-shelf. On the skronky, horn-driven lead single, “Problem,” she’s all bluster, then turns coquettish on “Love Me Harder,” assisted by Canadian R&B stylist the Weeknd. The aerobic standout “One Last Time” is a transcendent dance number, while “Break Your Heart Right Back,” about a boyfriend’s gay affair, ingeniously samples Diana Ross’s “I’m Coming Out.” (The dated “Hands On Me” is the sole misfire.) There’s none of the intimacy that made her debut so unusual–and who cares? As the industry’s once dominant pop queens are relegated to Vegas revues, a girl with a great voice who isn’t too skittish to shape-shift might be just the ticket.
This appears in the September 01, 2014 issue of TIME.
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