I know what you’re thinking, loyal reader. “Nick, what are you doing?! You’re risking losing your Internet street cred! This is not punk!” Well, mom and the other probably two people who have ever read anything I’ve written, I hear your concerns, but maybe it’s time to extend my fan base. This could be what propels me into the key MTV demographic. In fact, my first draft of this review was a Buzzfeed-style list titled “15 Times I Literally Couldn’t Even During Ariana Grande’s New Record”, but I couldn’t figure out how to get gifs to work. So on to plan B. Actually, plan B was to write this all in emojis, because that’s what the cool kids are all about these days, but that didn’t work out either. So on to plan C! Since I don’t expect a The Hotelier-level of lyrical introspection and intensity, I’m going to try something different: this is going to be a collection of my thoughts as I listen to each song for the first time (except “Problem”, which I have listened to approximately 6,258 times. But more on that later). So without further ado, let’s get started. God bless my soul.
(First thing’s first, a quick thought about that album art. That has to be the most uncomfortable way to sit on a stool. Come on, Ariana. Pull it together, man.)
– The first song is a one-minute 20-second “Intro”, leading me to believe that this is actually going to be a crazy prog-rock concept record, hopefully set in space.
– Okay, now that I’ve listened to it, I am 95% sure this will not be a crazy prog-rock concept record, hopefully set in space (I’m leaving that 5% that it might be because I like to dream big).
-I don’t really understand the point of the intro, which is just simply her doing vocal runs and singing a few lines over some glowing synth and piano. And then it doesn’t really lead into the next track, so I’m unsure about the inclusion of it.
-This is the one song on the record that I have heard before, and I’m going to be totally honest and upfront with you guys. This might be my favorite song in the history of mankind.
-Why are you laughing? I’m being serious. Guys. Let me explain.
– First off, saxophone in a pop song is gold. If this trend of shitty dance music breaks, pop music would transition into every song having a saxophone; I would be the happiest person in the world.
– Second, it’s insanely catchy, but in a very unique way to mainstream music. It doesn’t sound like the other garbage on the radio, possessing an old-school vibe to it, making it a refreshing electronic pop shit.
– Third, Iggy Azalea is pretty dope. If she is the alternative to having Nicki Minaj on every track ever, aren’t we as a species better off?
– The one complaint I have about this song is the chorus. Specifically, Big Sean whispering at me in the chorus. It is extremely uncomfortable, especially when combined with the close-up image of his mouth from the music video. If I were to make a list ranking everyone I would want whispering at me, Big Sean would be second to last, barely edging out Steve Buscemi.
– I could keep going on about this song for another 10,000 words (don’t tempt me, I still might), but I’ll leave it at this: this song is fantastic, the best to come out of the mainstream this year, maybe the best to come out this year period, possibly the pinnacle of all media in the history of the recorded world.
“One Last Time”
– This song suffers the fate of following “Problem”, meaning that it never stood a chance in my eyes. I spent the entirety of my listen reminiscing and wishing it was “Problem” and couldn’t recall a single aspect about the song I was actually listening to. So I had to run it back.
– Upon my second, more focused listen, the beat on “One Last Time” is its strongest trait, with galloping drums that sound huge and keep the song moving.
– Other than that, there’s not a lot going on in this song. I found myself getting bored throughout. I enjoy a minimalist approach to music, but this song seems to be negatively affected by the lack of anything interesting going on.
– My initial thought is that this song sounds extremely similar to the one right before it. Replace the huge pounding drums with a snare and you essentially have this beat.
– At least the chorus has more energy here. Her voice finally gets to shine, and boy does it ever. Ariana has one of the strongest voices in mainstream pop right now, so it’s strange to me that it hasn’t really been utilized much thus far in the record.
– In the end, “Why Try” seems just as forgettable as the track before it. Can I just go listen to “Problem” again?
– Oh hey, look! Something interesting is happening!
– I don’t normally condone this EDM-influenced pop style, but at least it’s a break from the monotony that came before it. If I had to hear another mid-tempo, bare bones track, I would have given up on this and gone back to watching Arrested Development on Netflix.
– Alright, I can get behind this. It’s infectious, fun, and doesn’t lean too heavily on the EDM aspect, and the chorus is absolutely killer.
– Upon further research, I have found that this was a single, along with “Problem”. So for those of you keeping score at home, the two singles have been great, the two other tracks have been snooze-fests, and the intro left me with the hopes of a space-set prog record that it has not yet delivered on.
– Before I even play this song, I notice something: “Best Mistake – Big Sean.” Why? Why must we continue to let him be involved in anything music related? Who must I speak to to make sure he is relegated to only saying “swerve” in the background of Kanye songs? Elect me president of music and I promise I will make these changes.
– On to the actual song, it has a dark vibe to it, and right off the bat, I am intrigued. Chilling piano echoes around snare hits, and Ariana’s vocals come off cold and disconnected, in the best way possible. Through the first chorus, this is definitely her best attempt at a slower song.
-“Uh huh. Yuh.” Oh God. Here he comes.
-Well, it could have been worse. On my patent-pending Big Sean scale of awfulness, where a 1 is his pretty great verse on “All Me” and a 10 is the sonic shit he took on “Mercy”, this was about a 5. His weird affinity for monotonous rap-talking off beat actually fits with the overall atmosphere of the song. You’ve escaped my wrath this time, Big Sean.
“Be My Baby”
– First question: what is a Cashmere Cat? I guess we’ll find out.
– This song gets the energy back up, with chiming electronics and claps constructing the beat, and Ariana’s vocals giving a bit more attitude and character than had been present before this. Her voice is incredible, but it can get formulaic at times. This is a refreshing take on it.
– This is a solid song. The album seems to be back on the right track.
– I still am unsure on what a Cashmere Cat is and honestly I have lost interest in finding out.
“Break Your Heart Right Back”
– A broad statement I am ready to make on this record: it is at its strongest when it utilizes hip-hop beats. That seems to be where Ariana is at her strongest.
– This song samples Diana Ross’ “I’m Coming Out”, which is most famously (at least to white kids from the suburbs like myself) known for being sampled in The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Mo Money Mo Problems”, which is weird, but if you’ve ever wanted to see Biggie and Puffy in the credits of a Nickelodeon star’s pop record, there you go.
– This is another solid song, but the sample seems to break up the flow of the track and acts more as a burden than it does an attribute.
– Childish Gambino’s verse is fire, adding to his recent list of guest spots that overshadow the main artist. (Seriously, his verse on Riff Raff’s “Lava Glaciers” led to me listening to a Riff Raff song sober, something I didn’t think was possible).
“Love Me Harder”
– After a strong stretch of enjoyable songs, it looks like we’ve fallen back into the trap of the uninteresting. Not even an appearance from culturally-relevant–two-years-ago The Weeknd (a sub-par effort, even by his recent standards) could save “Love Me Harder”.
– The refrain of “Love me” and “Harder” are undeniably catchy, but not nearly enough to rescue the chorus from falling flat.
“Just a Little Bit of Your Heart”
– I was wondering if we would see a piano ballad. It seems strange to me that it took this long for it to surface.
– This song lets Ariana’s greatest asset, her voice, take center stage and carry all the weight. And it works magnificently. This style seems to fit her much better than the mid-tempo travesties that came before it. I believe that if they indulged this side a bit more it would be a massive improvement on the record as a whole.
“Hands On Me”
– Woah. What the fuck is going on here?
– This isn’t necessarily a negative point, but this doesn’t sound like an Ariana Grande song. This sounds like it was written for Rihanna. It doesn’t fit at all and sounds very out of place with the rest of the record, but it is catchy enough to soften the blow somewhat.
– Wait, is that it? If that’s all of A$AP Ferg’s part I’m going to be severely upset. All I’m saying is if you advertise that he’s on a track, I want full-on Hood Pope-ness.
– The further I get into this track, the more bizarre it seems. I know mainstream pop records aren’t as cohesive as other genres, but this feels like if you took “Guernica” and put it on Daisy. It just doesn’t feel like it belongs at all.
– FYI I am physically unable to get through anything I write without referencing Brand New, which explains that last analogy.
– FERG, AGAIN.
-Alright, I am satisfied with this song. It still doesn’t make sense on the record, but the Trap Lord blessed it with his presence, making everything all right.
– Another piano ballad. How much thought actually went into the sequencing on this? No slow songs until the third to last track, then two ballads out of three songs to close the record? This seems very strange to me.
– I honestly can’t tell if this is a call-back to the intro, but if it is, at least that would shed some light onto why they had an intro in the first place. (And after listening to the whole record, I can exclusively confirm that it is, in fact, not a crazy prog-rock concept record set in space.)
– Again, her voice lends very well to ballads. It’s a shame they limited the two instances to the back end of the record, as most sane people would never make it this far in the first place.
Boring seems like a cop-out term to use when describing music, but that is honestly all this record is. It never takes any risks. Everything ends up feeling so cookie-cutter and bland that the true talent gets washed away. The points where something interesting does happen, like “Problem”, some of the tracks with rappers (sit down, Big Sean, I’m not talking about you), and the ballads are grand, but they lose their luster when they are bogged down by the junk that this album surrounds them with. The sequencing and cohesiveness of My Everything really affect the record negatively as a whole, but Grande has more than enough talent. If she decided to make a record of hip-hop tracks and piano ballads and cut out the rest, it could be something worth listening to. But for now, just listen to “Problem” on repeat. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go do something to get my Internet Punk street cred back. Does anyone have a denim vest and a Leftover Crack patch I can borrow?