Background and conception
"They can expect a lot of honesty. It's like a direct... you know, it's like it used to be pages from my diary, instead of keeping diary, I would write songs about what was happening in my life. So it's really personal. It's a Motown throwback and pop at the same time, so it's '50s and '60s inspiration mixed with today."
— Grande, on the album.
Yours Truly is the result of three years of work. The project underwent significant conceptual and sonic changes throughout that time. Grande began working on the album in August 2010 while she was filming Victorious and formally started to work on it with a record label after she was signed to Republic Records on August 10, 2011. By September 10 of that year, Grande already had twenty songs prepared and was going through the process of narrowing it down to thirteen. The first single, a bubblegum pop song called "Put Your Hearts Up", was released on December 12, 2011. The single was aimed at young audiences, perhaps intending to cater to Grande's core audience, which at that time was almost entirely made up by kids who knew her from Victorious. During an interview in June 2012, Grande described everything on the album as being "50s, 60s doo-wop-inspired" and revealed that two new singles were going to be released before the album, one of which was called "Do You Love Me?" and featured SkyBlu. Other songs that Grande had rights to, named and later leaked as being part of the album included "Honeymoon Avenue", "Voodoo Love", "Pink Champagne", "Boyfriend Material", "Tattooed Heart", "Daydreamin'" and "You're My Only Shawty". The latter never made it onto Yours Truly and was eventually given to Demi Lovato to record and include on her 2011 R&B-infused album Unbroken as "You're My Only Shorty".
In 2013, Grande met up with her label and expressed dissatisfaction with the direction the album was taking. In several interviews during 2013, she admitted to having completely disliked her debut single, "Put Your Hearts Up", and not having an interest in pursuing music of that genre. She expressed a desire to make the type of music she grew up listening to, which was, "urban pop, 90s music." Rapper Iggy Azalea turned down working on the album; she however did collaborate with Grande on her second album My Everything. The album was originally titled Daydreamin and set to be released during August 2013.
The album is inspired by a variety of different artists, ranging from Amy Winehouse and Christina Aguilera to Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. Grande describes the album's first half is a "throwback" to the R&B music of the 1990s, and the second half is she describes as "something that is very unique and very special that I've sort of written" which is completely original. In summation of the record she stated: "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".