Yours Truly by Ariana Grande // 10 Year Anniversary Album Review

Ariana Grande Yours Truly Album Cover Photoshoot 10th Anniversary Review - featuring "The Way" with Mac Miller
10 years ago, Ariana Grande released her debut album, Yours Truly, which really signified the birth of one of the greatest popstars of this generation. It's an album that mixes so many different sounds and sonic influences from a wide range of musical eras. 

Yours Truly was made over a span of three years while Ariana was simultaneously starring on Nickelodeon's Victorious and later, Sam and Cat. It is so rare for someone like her, with the background of being an actress on a kid's show, to be able to make a debut album like this in the first place, but also to subsequently have built the career she has in the years since. It is so evident that they all really took their time over those three years while making this album to create something really special and timeless, which is a testament to how well this album held up over the last ten years. 

The majority of Yours Truly still sounds so fresh a decade later, which honestly is rare to achieve with much of the music released around this time from some of her peers. There were so many actors from this era of Nickelodeon stars that made an attempt at music careers, most of which I enjoyed back then, but were subsequently short-lived. I really don't think anyone going into this album would have expected the bubbly, ditzy, girl with bright red hair in Victorious to not only come out the gate with a truly incredible debut album, but also to go on to become the superstar she is today. To start off her debut album with a song like "Honeymoon Avenue" is beyond impressive. That orchestral opening is heavenly, and it continues to be one of her best vocal performances of her entire career. I remember hearing it for the first time in 2013 and being blown away and in disbelief of what she has been holding back all this time!

Something that makes Yours Truly so special in every way is that this sound is so different than much of what was popular in 2013. This album really did raise the standard of what pop music could be and should be for the 2010's. The listener can really tell that the influences and overall aesthetic of this album are truly personal to Ariana herself. Although she was known for being on a kid's show and had a young audience, this music wasn't necessarily marketed toward kids in the way a lot of comparable artists were at the time that were on those networks. It took a lot longer for them to break free (no pun intended) of that child-star mold that they were confined to at the time as artists. I don't think that image is something that Ariana was ever really was tied down to, especially by the time Yours Truly was released.

So much of this album was made with many collaborators that would carry through into nearly every album she would release from that point forward. There were many writers and producers for this album, but some of the most notable that she continued to work with over the years include Tommy Brown/TBHits, who has heavily worked with her on all six of her albums she has released so far and produced some of the biggest hits of her career. Her Victorious co-star, Leon Thomas III of The Rascals, also co-wrote several songs on this album. They recently collaborated again on a couple of songs for her 2020 album Positions, both of which were amazing. I love seeing the songwriting and producing career he has had in the years since being on Victorious too! Victoria Monét also collaborated with Ariana for "Honeymoon Avenue" and "Daydreamin'" too. She has worked with her on dozens of amazing songs on every single album she has ever released. 

Over the three years it took to create the Yours Truly that we have today, there seems to have been a few different iterations of what could have been her debut album. In 2011, soon after she signed to Republic Records, she released a song called "Put Your Hearts Up". I actually remember listening to it all the time on my iPod and even back then being so impressed with how strong her voice was - which now is nothing compared to what she has proven time and time again that she is capable of. Listening to it now, it's not a bad song by any means and it is very much on-par with a lot of the music coming from Nickelodeon and Disney Channel stars at this time. It was never released on her eventual debut album, and she later publicly stated in interviews in 2013 that she "hated" the song and considered it to be a "horrible first impression" and wanted to "pretend it never happened before it already happened". In 2020 in an interview with Zach Sang, she retracted her hatred for the song and further explained that it just wasn't the right fit for her as she felt no personal connection to the message. "The Way", the official lead single of Yours Truly, is almost always regarded as her first song (outside of her work on Victorious) but the often-forgotten history behind "Put Your Hearts Up" is just an interesting little blip in Ariana's music career. 

Around the same time, when her debut album was close to completion, she also expressed to the record label that she was dissatisfied with the direction the rest of the album was taking and had no interest in the type of music she was making. From the song titles that leaked at the time, it seems like "Daydreamin'", "Honeymoon Avenue" and "Tattooed Heart" are possibly three of the only songs that ended up making the cut. From that point forward, she and her collaborators leaned in further to the style of those songs, instead of bubblegum pop music. Those three songs are absolute classics in her discography and really define the entire album for me. Her vocals are incredible on every song of course, but her pure talent really shines on these songs in particular. It is also some of the strongest lyrically and captures the love and romantic themes of Yours Truly so beautifully. 

Ariana Grande Yours Truly Album Cover 10th Anniversary Album Review
The album was also at one point supposed to be named Honeymoon Avenue or Daydreamin', which Ariana talked about recently in a tenth anniversary Q&A on TikTok. I think it was unofficially announced as Daydreamin' at one point, before it was ultimately changed. There was also a different album cover initially, which really did look terrible. It's actually funny how bad it is because it's pretty much the complete opposite of the photo that eventually became the album cover. It was so gauche, very pink, very floral and not at all Ariana's style. Eventually it was announced officially that the album would be titled Yours Truly and the cover, which is pictured above, is an elegant, simplistic black and white portrait of Ariana. Although the other working titles would have also been good names for the album too, nothing compares to how perfect Yours Truly sounds. To me, it sounds like a sign-off of a love letter, which feels so representative of the theme of her debut album with all of the gorgeous love songs that make up so much of it. It is signature Ariana in every way.

When talking about Yours Truly to MTVNews a month before its release, she said, "So half of it is a throwback and like very familiar feeling, feel-good, and then half of it is something that I've created that's sort of special and unique and refreshing and wonderful and I love it." It blends 90's pop, R&B, and hip-hop with retro 50's and 60's inspired piano ballads in such a unique way. 

The lead single for Yours Truly was "The Way" featuring Mac Miller. This was the start of their creative partnership and the first of many collaborations. He is someone that has been very important in her professional and personal life and has an influence on so much of her music. This song showcased her maturity and powerhouse vocals in a way that wasn't displayed with "Put Your Hearts Up" two years prior. It was received with critical acclaim and brought forth many comparisons to one of the greatest vocalists of all time, Mariah Carey. It is so rare for a new artist to be compared to her like that and there really hasn't been anyone since that is on their level in that regard. Stylistically, a lot of Ariana's music at this time was very inspired by Mariah too. "The Way" seems like an ode to the iconic R&B/rap collaborations that she was so well known for in the 90s and early 2000s - a song like "Heartbreaker" featuring Jay-Z comes to mind first. 

"Well, growing up, I loved listening to like the divas of that era," she told MTVNews at the time. "I loved listening to, well, Destiny's Child was my favorite thing about my childhood, like my favorite thing... and Brandy and all these fabulous women that I loved listening to as a child. I guess I just miss that sort of real, fun R&B feel-good music." That type of fun, feel-good music carried through into some of the other singles from Yours Truly, like "Baby I" and "Right There" featuring Big Sean. "Baby I" is especially such an incredible song and will always be a major highlight of this album. It actually was originally written by Babyface for Beyoncé, which never came to fruition and Ariana ended up recording it instead. She sings, "All I'm tryna say is you're my everything, baby, but every time I try to say it, words, they only complicate it". It captures the 90's throwback sound so perfectly, but is reinterpreted in such a modern way. The production and vocal arrangement is incredible and has always been one of the best of the album. 

Other shining moments on Yours Truly that are so representative of the fun, up-tempo, carefree energy are songs like "You'll Never Know", "Lovin' It" and "Piano", to name a few. Those three have always been so underrated but I have always wished they were singles too! 

Along with the throwback 90's sound, there are also a lot of sonic and lyrical influences from 1950's and 60's love songs. On "Tattooed Heart", she sings, "I wanna say we're going steady like it's 1954, no, it doesn't have to be forever, just as long as I'm the name on your tattooed heart". 

Those beautiful and dreamy love songs like "Tattooed Heart", "Honeymoon Avenue", and "Daydreamin'" really define the entire album for me and are absolute classics in her discography. "Honeymoon Avenue" has always been one of my favorites lyrically, as well. She sings, "I feel like my heart is stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, I'm under pressure 'cause I can't have you the way that I want, let's just go back to the way it was, when we were on Honeymoon Avenue ... coastin' like crazy, can we get back to the way it was?" 

The beauty of those songs lies in their simplicity. Her vocals are insanely gorgeous on every song, but her pure, unfiltered talent really shines through on those tracks. 

Ariana Grande Yours Truly Album Cover Photoshoot 10th Anniversary Album Review

In celebration of the ten-year anniversary of this album, Ariana re-released Yours Truly with six brand-new live versions recorded in London earlier this year. Those live versions are so beautiful and are a testament to how timeless this album is and how much she has continued to grow in her talents over the past decade. I also love the updated album cover, which is featured as the header of this article. As a sharp contrast to the black and white imagery of the original release, the photo that was chosen is in bright, full color. It is a frame from "The Way" music video of her smiling back at Mac Miller, there is so much symbolism in that image. It captures the meaning this album holds for her in such a beautiful way, one that is not only a gorgeous tribute to the late Mac Miller, who undoubtedly had such an impact on her life, but also looking back on the entire journey she has been on for the past decade.

Looking back on this album, it truly paved the way for the massively successful artist she went on to become throughout the next ten years and beyond. It is such a beautiful and timeless body of work that has only gotten better with time. I can only imagine what the next decade will bring for Ariana! 

Thanks for reading! I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below. If you are interested in reading more Ariana Grande related articles, check it out here and linked below!

Yours Truly, 

Melissa ♡

Photo Credit: Ariana Grande, Republic Records

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