In 2013, Harmony Samuels had a hand in executive and co-executive producing two albums, including Fantasia’s Side Effects of You and Ariana Grande’s Yours Truly.
Grande’s debut album arrived nearly five months later, in September 2013, with “The Way” featuring Mac Miller as the newly-announced lead single. She previously touted “Put Your Hearts Up” as the first single until it was replaced with the former track.
Samuels produced “The Way” and co-wrote it with Sevyn Streeter, Al Sherrod Lambert, Malcolm McCormick and Jordin Sparks.
Sparks, winner of American Idol season six, was signed to Jive Records in partnership with 19 Recordings. During her time with the label, she released two albums: her self-titled debut in 2007 and Battlefield in 2009.
She was working on her third album in 2010, which was set to include “The Way.” In a 2013 interview with That Grape Juice, Sparks confirmed that she wrote “The Way” about her and her then-boyfriend Jason Derulo.
“It was gonna go on my record and somehow her people heard it, she loved it, she cut it [and] she did an amazing job and it keeps on rising [up the charts],” Sparks told the correspondent about flexing her muscle as a songwriter.
Not only was “The Way” intended to be included on Sparks’ third album, but the sound of Grande’s Yours Truly album was the direction that Sparks was originally meant to take.
“While I was doing that album for [Fantasia], I was working on those records for Ariana Grande, but they weren’t Ariana Grande records — they were Jordin Sparks records,” Samuels exclusively tells Rated R&B when asked how working with Fantasia prepared him for his work with Grande.
Samuels adds, “Jordin Sparks is the originator of those records and the blueprint behind who Ari is now. My vision was for Jordin to be that person.”
At the time, Jordin Sparks was signed to the RCA Records roster, following the defunct of Jive Records where she was initially signed. J Records, LaFace, and Arista were also absorbed at the same time. The internal changes made it challenging for Sparks and other artists to receive the same level of support they were used to.
Samuels reveals it was more to the story. “Unfortunately, RCA didn’t see the value in what I was producing for Jordin, and they proceeded to go in a different direction,” he notes.
In December 2013, Sparks spoke with HuffPost Live and expressed her frustration with RCA Records delaying her third album.
“They’ve done so many amazing things for me, so I don’t this to come off like I hate them because I don’t,” Sparks told correspondent Ricky Camilleri. “It’s just I’m a little bit frustrated because I really want to put this music out for my fans and it’s really good.”
Sparks even hinted that she had an album complete; however, RCA allegedly did not have her allocated in the budget to release one that year suggesting she was busy promoting Sparkle, where she made her feature film debut alongside Whitney Houston.
Still, without a third album, Sparks parted ways with RCA Records and inked a new deal in 2014 with Salaam Remi’s imprint Louder Than Life in conjunction with Sony Music. Her long-awaited album, Right Here Right Now, arrived a year later and featured the 2 Chainz-assisted lead single “Double Tap.”
Meanwhile, “The Way,” which samples “A Little Bit of Love” by Brenda Russell, reached No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in June 2013. Since then, the song has been certified 3x multi-platinum with over three million equivalent units sold.
Despite how things turned out, Samuels appreciates Grande for believing in him and their creative partnership for Yours Truly.
“Kudos to Ari. She did a lot of work on that [album],” Samuels affirms. “She didn’t just cut those records; she put Mac Miller on those records. She called Big Sean. She had those relationships. We worked extremely hard together. She deserves all the success.”
Revisit Ariana Grande’s Yours Truly and Jordin Sparks’ Right Here Right Now below.