Before Justin Bieber’s “Journals,” there was Ariana Grande’s “Yours Truly.”
It was Aug. 30, 2013, and Grande — who rose to fame on Nickelodeon’s “Victorious” and “Sam & Cat” — suddenly emerged as a musical superstar with her debut album. Thanks to her dreamy voice and impressive range, the budding phenom, who was then 20 years old, proved she was so much more than just a teen star.
The album was a testament of how ’90s R&B, hip-hop, pop, and doo-wop can complement one another. Paired with production by Babyface, The Rascals (Leon Thomas III and Khris Riddick-Tynes), Antonio Dixon, Harmony Samuels, Tommy Brown (aka TBHits), as well as cowriting credits from the aforementioned and Victoria Monét, Sevyn Streeter, Jordin Sparks, and Priscilla Renea (now Muni Long), “Yours Truly” was an instant victory. This dream team fused Grande’s instinctual talent and musical theater background to formulate an untapped side of her artistry, thus creating one of the best sonic introductions of the 2010s.
It’s a celebration of longevity.
Starting with the orchestral opener, “Honeymoon Avenue,” Grande sang of regret about a relationship that had lost its essence. “I looked in my rearview mirror and / It seemed to make a lot more sense / Than what I see ahead of us,” she sang. She originally pegged that track to be the album’s title, but instead opted for “Yours Truly” because she felt her debut was more of an open letter to her fans that she’d been writing over the previous three years, deep from her heart.
The album segues into records like the uptempo love song, “Baby I,” which, according to Complex, she was encouraged to release as a single under the late Mac Miller’s advisement; the Big Sean-assisted duet, “Right There”; the romantic tribute to courtship, “Tattooed Heart”; the whimsical “Daydreamin'”; the guttural ballad, “Almost Is Never Enough” featuring Nathan Sykes; and the chart-topping lead single, “The Way” feat. Mac Miller. The lineup proved Grande could float between multiple genres, skyrocketing her to heights in a lane all her own.
With “The Way,” she aptly buried the juvenile “Put Your Hearts Up” from 2011 and returned to the scene with the debut she deserved. The then-20-year-old explained to Complex, “The thing I loved about ‘The Way’ is that it gave me butterflies. When I was in the studio recording it I knew it was special, I was like, ‘This is it. If I’m gonna release a first single, this has gotta be it. I don’t know, if this isn’t a hit then I don’t know what good music is.’ I just had such a special feeling about it.” Even the video, which was shot on an iPhone, was intended to be flirty and fun — exactly how the record makes you feel.
As a whole, “Yours Truly” laid the foundation for what was to come from the Florida-bred songbird. She incorporated that doo-wop feel onto later records like 2018’s “R.E.M.” and 2019’s “imagine” while continuing her reign of timeless collaborations with 2014’s “Break Your Heart Right Back” featuring Childish Gambino and 2016’s “Side To Side” with Nicki Minaj — staying true to her hand-in-hand relationship with R&B and hip-hop. Not to mention, “Yours Truly” covers all elements of a relationship, making it a fitting record regardless of if you’ve never been in love, are a hopeless romantic, or need to piece your heart back together.
Fast-forward a decade later, and Grande remains at the top of her class in the pop world. On Aug. 25, Grande released the special 10th anniversary deluxe edition of her debut album, which now includes new live renditions of a few popular tracks from its original version (she’s also been taking part in Q&As and performances in honor of the 10th anniversary). She seems to be solidifying the legacy of her debut, just as fellow child stars Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez have also released new singles.
She’s forever ours — truly.
It’s a celebration of longevity. All three of these women have been through a series of intense public and private struggles — last month, it was reported that Grande was separating from her husband of two years, Dalton Gomez — and yet their legacies never wavered.
Cyrus even reflected on Instagram that her single was a direct response to her feeling misunderstood and attempting to rectify that. “I have spent the last 18 months painting a sonic picture of my perspective to share with you,” explained the Tennessee native. “The time has arrived to release a song that I could perfect forever. Although my work is done, this song will continue to write itself everyday. The fact it remains unfinished is a part of its beauty. That is my life at this moment ….. unfinished yet complete.”
“Yours Truly” echoes the beauty of something that could be perfected forever without the need to be. It is a fulfilling embodiment of romantic escapism that effortlessly molded the makings of an enduring artist. Grande came in, caught our attention, offering a sonic refresher that had been missing for a while, and for that, she’s forever ours — truly.
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