Ariana Grande sure turned a corner musically, but the Nickelodeon star didn't do it alone. She had a little help from former "Victorious" co-star Leon Thomas.
Thomas, who just signed a recording contract with Rostrum Records, also produces with his partner Chris Tines as the Rascals. Together, Thomas and Tines earned credits on five songs off Ariana's debut Yours Truly, including the album's intro track.
"One of my favorite tracks [is] 'Honeymoon Avenue.' We got a 20-piece orchestra to lay some strings. At that moment, I'm going to be real, I felt like a boss," Thomas told MTV News. "Producing something and then having all those people working so hard, it was crazy."
Leon looked to famed songwriter Diane Warren for inspiration. The Academy Award and Grammy winner has written huge pop hits for artists like Aerosmith ("I Don't Want To Miss a Thing"), Celine Dion ("Because You Loved Me") and Toni Braxton ("Un-Break My Heart"). "It needed to feel like a really big '90s record, almost like Diane Warren... just how big those records felt, we wanted that," he said.
It sounds like Thomas accomplished his goal. Grande's longing track starts with a dramatic string build, followed by some doo-wop-styled background vocals (sung by Thomas) and of course, Ariana's breathy voice. "I looked in my rearview mirror and it seemed to make a lot more sense than what I see ahead of us," she sings, cleverly comparing her love life to a traffic jam.
"We worked on a bunch of songs on there. 'Lovin' It' is also a really great song," Thomas told us.
For "Lovin' It," the Rascals, along with Babyface and Antonio Dixon, helped Grande build a feel-good tune reminiscent of Mary J. Blige's 1992 hit "Real Love."
With the critically acclaimed album only days old, the 20-year old singer is having quite the moment, and Thomas is just happy for his friend. "It's good to see people that I love, people that I really respect doing that well," he said. "She's killing the game right now."