Victoria Justice and Jasmine V are probably doing shots off the hood of a car somewhere in the dark heart of Los Angeles right now, sobbing on each others' shoulders and screaming "fuck my life!" to random passersby. On the other side of town, Selena Gomez is begging Justin to make a sextape to promote her new album. A couple of blocks away Demi Lovato is parked outside McDonald's meticulously sterilizing her razor with a cigarette lighter, while Bridgit Mendler sits inside, building up the courage to ask for a job application. What has thrown the current crop of teen queens into such a tailspin? Two words. Ariana Grande.
My only exposure to the Nickelodeon star until now has been her contribution to the Victorious soundtrack. I knew she could sing but I wasn't expecting her to drop anything as good as "The Way" and definitely didn't expect it to shoot to number one on US iTunes within hours of release. Ariana has broken through faster and more comprehensively than any of the girls mentioned above and they must be concerned. There's only room for one Queen and this new bitch means business.
It only takes one listen to understand the appeal of "The Way". It's a blatant Mariah Carey rip off that harks back to the late '90s when production took a back seat to vocal ability. I had no idea Ariana had pipes like this. She has real talent and chooses the perfect vehicle to show it off. Produced by Harmony Samuels, an English producer who has crafted hits for Chris Brown, Ne-Yo and Nas, the track sounds like it was lifted straight from Mimi's Butterfly album. It's a subtle mid-tempo pop song with the slightest sheen of urban credibility thanks to Mac Miller, who tones his usual act down with an age appropriate rap.
While I still prefer Demi's epic "Heart Attack" and live for Selena's reed thin vocals, there's no denying that Ariana Grande has arrived in true diva style. "The Way" is a great single that avoids most of the overproduced teen pop cliches. She even gets the cute and colourful video (below) right, having the world's tamest party with Mac Miller. Why is she twirling around in a room full of balloons like a 12-year-old? Where's the keg? These are questions for another day but it's kind of nice that she's not twerkin' like a stripper.