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Yours Truly by Ariana Grande
Released: Sep 2013
This 20-year-old artist makes songs that sound like songs from 20 years ago (specifically, Mariah Carey songs). And Grande does it brilliantly, thanks to a sweet, ceiling-scraping voice and production that crafts a pitch-perfect picture of that early '90s, hip-hop-cut R&B (down to Babyface beats and a Big Sean cameo that's a dead ringer for old-school Puffy). That sound was itself a throwback to finger-popping '50s and '60s malt-shop pop, which Grande also pays homage to (see the tooth-aching "Tattooed Heart"). It's all just good, wholesome pop fun, even the weird Wicked duet with Mika.
Rachel Devitt