At the beginning of 2014 Ariana Grande was best known on these shores for ultrasonic wailing, Mariah comparisons and a high ponytail. Her biggest collaboration was with one of The Wanted.
Things started to change when we reported that Ariana was working on her next album with Max Martin, Savan Kotecha, Benny Blanco and Ryan Tedder. An "unexpected" male singer was also involved, she'd announced.
We now know that the album was partially amazing, that the unexpected male was The Weeknd, and that Zedd, Iggy Azalea, Harry Styles and Childish Gambino also made their way onto the album.
If you were in a tight corner — or desperate to convince yourself that Grande had not jettisoned the understated R&B styling of her first album — you might have been able to put forward a semi-coherent argument that lead single 'Problem' was an extension or exaggeration of the musical persona Ariana established on 'Yours Truly', but by the time 'Break Free' honked and clattered its way into view it was very clear that subtlety was out, rocket-blasting bras were in, and Ariana was determined to shamelessly stomp her way to pop supremacy.
The exquisite, Weeknd-featuring 'Love Me Harder' was more in line with Ariana's earlier work, but that almost seemed coincidental. 'Love Me Harder' might have been a dreamy R&B tune but it was, primarily, a supercharged pop banger. This bootleg 12" mix gives the track plenty of room to breathe, and we've listened to it a lot over the last few weeks.
You'd be hard pushed to claim that 2014 belonged to any pop artist other than Taylor Swift, but Ariana's ascension was perfectly executed. Everyone around Ariana still seems to be working a lot harder than Ariana herself when it comes to justifying Grande's new position as the planet's second-biggest popstar, but 'My Everything' has set the stage for an even bigger third album, and pop is all the better for having an multi-platinum artist whose biggest, best album is still to come.