POSTED: Sunday, September 15, 2013 - 2:00am
UPDATED: Sunday, September 15, 2013 - 2:04am
CNN — Nickelodeon star Ariana Grande has proven she knows "The Way" to No. 1.
The 20-year-old actress and singer, already famous for Nick's "Victorious" and now "Sam & Cat," has spread her wings beyond kids TV into the music industry.
Her debut album, "Yours Truly," arrived on September 3 and went straight to the top of the Billboard 200 chart.
That not only solidifies Grande as a pop star to watch, but it also puts her in pretty rarefied company: According to Billboard, she's one of only 15 solo female artists whose debut albums have opened at No. 1. Interestingly enough, that doesn't include one of Grande's idols, Mariah Carey, whose influence is evident on some of "Yours Truly."
Although Grande wasn't born until 1993, the record "honors '90s-style R&B," and stands out as "one of the most purely enjoyable albums of the year, powered by her lithe, Broadway-honed voice," Entertainment Weekly says in its review.
Her taste for throwback sounds goes hand-in-hand with a more retro approach to crossing the treacherous boundary between kid entertainer and adult star: Rather than trying to change her image through provocative sexual posturing, Grande seems to be relying solely on her voice.
"I think everybody does what feels natural to them and that's a great thing," Grande told CNN. "If you're doing things that make you feel happy and doing things that you're confident in, that's great. But for me, I just feel like I've always been the same way. And I don't feel like any need to shock people. I just want to sing."
There are inevitable comparisons with another all-grown-up-now child star, Miley Cyrus, who is close in age. But Grande has said that she passes no judgment on her twerking colleague, and believes that everyone else should follow suit.
When it comes to Cyrus' controversial MTV VMAs performance this year, "she looked like she was having the time of her life. ... There's nothing wrong with having fun," Grande told Rolling Stone. "I think all the people who are saying mean things about it and who are judging, need to spend less time judging other people and more time worrying about how to have as much fun as she's having in life right now."
Besides, Grande noted -- she and Cyrus are doing different things.
"I don't feel much pressure to fit in. I never have," she said. "I've always just wanted to do my thing. I have really good friends and good family and if I don't fit in somewhere else, I fit in at home. I feel like when I try to fit in, it comes across as not genuine, and that is not good."
For the time being, though, Grande is easing up on showcasing her vocals after suffering a hemorrhaged vocal chord.
"First day off in forever... Vocal rest and watching movies in with my best friend," Grande tweeted Wednesday night. "For those of u asking about my voice I screamed too much at my party totally irresponsible but it's better now, thanks for the well wishes ... I'll be better in no time."