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Album review: Ariana Grande’s sophomore effort bogged down by outside voices

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It’s not always a smooth transition from Nickelodeon star to pop princess, but Ariana Grande mastered it with her first album, 2013’s “Yours Truly.”

Almost exactly a year later, she cemented her place in pop music and attempted to shed her child star image with “My Everything.”

She is commonly referred to as a young Mariah Carey, and that is exactly who I thought I was listening to in the album’s intro. The vocals are very angelic and breathy, reminiscent of Carey for sure.

Do not fear, though — Grande clears the confusion quick, starting with “Problem,” featuring Aussie rapper Iggy Azalea. This relationship-bashing, girl’s anthem has peaked at No. 2 on the “Billboard” Hot 100, becoming Grande’s most successful single so far. But “Problem,” like the album’s intro, is again no indication of the songs to follow.

This album is full of emotionally-driven songs.

Unlike her urban-heavy first album, “My Everything” brilliantly combines electronic dance music, pop and hip-hop beats as a backdrop to Grande’s soulful voice. Where this album falls flat, though, is with the two ballads — “Just a Little Bit of Your Heart” and the title track — that stick out like a sore thumb.

Both songs are very well crafted, but sound like they belong on a different album.

Awkward features also add to the downside of this album, such as alternative R&B singer The Weeknd’s appearance on “Love Me Harder.” It actually could have been a good song if he wasn’t featured, because their tones don’t mesh well together at all.

Rapper ASAP Ferg appears on “Hands on Me,” a track that shows Grande’s attempt to shed her Nickelodeon image. It doesn’t work in her favor, however. She sounds out of place crooning, “Let me break you off.”

It’s a sharp contrast from the innocence of songs like “Popular Song” and “Piano” from her debut album.

Grande shines on the rest of the album, though, especially on tracks like “Why Try” and her current single, “Break Free” featuring Zedd. Cashmere Cat and Big Sean (Grande’s rumored boyfriend) appear on other tracks.

Childish Gambino makes his mark on “Break Your Heart Right Back,” one of the standout tracks on the album. The song brilliantly samples Diana Ross’s 1980 hit, “I’m Coming Out.” You can hear Ross singing her iconic lyrics in the background paired with guitar riffs from the original song and hard-hitting beats.

It makes no sense on paper, but somehow, it works.

Overall, Grande’s “My Everything” is a gem besides a few hiccups. Not many of her peers are able to combine big vocals with even bigger production, and the production on this album is impeccable.

Even though half of the songs have featured artists — more than her debut — she still shines.

Unlike many acts, Grande has put forward a solid sophomore set, and it’s worth your money. This is not your run-of-the-mill pop album. Grande is using a formula that was introduced by Mariah years ago: fusing pop and hip-hop with popular rappers — and it works for her.

Grande currently has three songs in the top 10 on the “Billboard” Hot 100 chart. If this is any indication, there will be lot more from her to come.

No sophomore slump here.

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