Ariana Grande is an American singer-songwriter and actress whose TV roles include Cat Valentine on the Nickelodeon sitcom Victorious. This is the first single from Ariana's debut studio album, Yours Truly.
The song features some rhymes by Mac Miller, whom Ariana became friendly with after the rapper tweeted her in October 2012. The pair started writing songs together and in December 2012 they released a cover of the classic Christmas song "Baby It's Cold Outside." Shortly afterwards Ariana called Mac and asked him to be in this song, which was recorded in January 2013. Mac filled in his parts later in the month after he finished touching up his mixtape.
The song samples the background groove from Brenda Russell's 1979 track, "A Little Bit Of Love," which was later borrowed by Big Pun for his 1998 hip hop song "Still Not a Player."
This topped the iTunes chart within seven hours after being released on March 26, 2013. The song also debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 at #10, becoming Ariana Grande's and Mac Miller's first Hot 100 top 10 hit.
One of the song's co-writers is former American Idol winner Jordin Sparks. At the age of 17, Sparks won the sixth season of the Fox talent show, becoming the youngest winner in American Idol history.
Ariana told Rolling Stone that she engineered her recording session with Mac Miller at the rapper's house. "I recorded him rapping, while I was simultaneously baking cookies for him and that was that," she said.
"I love, love, love just being hands on at all times in the studio," Ariana added. "[Mac Miller] taught me how to work Pro Tools real quick. It was really fun."
Minder Music, who own the rights to songs written and recorded by '70s R&B act The Jimmy Castor Bunch, filed a copyright infringement lawsuit naming Grande, along with executives at Sony/ATV and UMG Recordings amongst others. The suit claimed that the phrase Grande repeats in "The Way," "What we gotta do right here is go back, back into time", is lifted from the Jimmy Castor Bunch's 1972 hit tune "Troglodyte," which features the spoken intro, "What we're gonna do right here is go back, way back, back into time."
Ariana Grande became famous as the character Cat in the Nickelodeon TV shows Victorious and spinoff Sam & Cat, but she ditched her good girl image and changed her look for this song. The pop princess told Marie Claire: "I was like, "Guys, there has to be a really distinct difference between me and my character, Cat Valentine.' And we did that with 'The Way.' I dyed my hair back to brown. I made out with a rapper in the video."
"I made the point I wanted to make," Grande added. "And I was excited to do so after so many years of pretending to be somebody else in front of a lot of people."
The song was written by the song's producer Harmony Samuels, alongside Amber Streeter, Al Sherrod Lambert, Jordin Sparks and Mac Miller. Samuels contributed to five of the twelve tracks and much of his material for the record was a '90s R&B sound. He told Billboard magazine: "I moved to LA in 2010. When I got here, music had changed so much - everything was dance music. And I was frustrated. What happened to all the '90s and early '00s music, what happened to Mariah, what happened to Usher? I said, 'You know what I'm going to do? I'm just going to re-create the '90s.'"
"At the time I was working with Jordin Sparks," he continued. "And most of the songs for Ariana were [originally] for Jordin. Unfortunately, Jordin's label and I didn't really agree that was the direction they wanted to go for her. So I had these songs just sitting for 18 months, thinking one day this is going to go somewhere. And Ari comes in the room and she sings, and I'm blown away by her voice. And I say, 'Would you like to sing this song?' And I play her 'The Way.' That was the biggest song we did on the album, and it was the first song I played her."