Usually, when tragedy strikes, people they tend to lose their will, hope and sometimes faith. However, when tragedy hits Ariana Grande, she bosses up. Five months following the release of her Grammy winning fourth album, ‘Sweetener,’ the 25-year-old megastar quickly followed with her fifth album, ‘thank u, next.’ Released on Friday (Feb. 8), “thank u, next” contains 12 songs and proves to be Grande’s most vulnerable work.
Grande channels each and every active emotion into her music. Creating moments in history alongside longtime friends/co-writers Victoria Monét and Tayla Parx with the album’s lead singles such as the already iconic album titled “thank u, next,” the utterly soulful, heartfelt “imagine” and the purely sexy stunt anthem, “7 Rings,” “thank u, next” proves that Grande can do just about whatever it is she wants to do, when she wants to do it.
“imagine” initiates the story as Grande reflects on her late ex-boyfriend, the great Mac Miller. Longing for a perfect world where the focus is just on the two of them; they can be together, embrace one another and stay in love forever. “needy” begins Ariana’s reflection as she sings about requiring emotional and even physical reassurance. She knows she can be overwhelming but it is who she is. She begins with lines such as:
“Lately, I’ve been on a roller coaster
Tryna get a hold of my emotions
But all I know is I need you close.”
She knows she is not perfect – the beauty of the record truly lies within the imperfection. Instead of letting her flaws consume her, she uses them to further express her love. In the same breath, Ari switches up and longs for time away from her love in “NASA.” By distancing one another from another, Ariana feels the passion and love the two share for one another will passionately grow from the space.
Sexual liberation, a theme that Ariana has truly embodied over the past few years is seen in the album with “bloodline.” Produced by Max Martin, “bloodline” gives off a slight island vibe as Ariana sings about having a partner with no strings attached. She craves this person sexually, but not enough to be with them forever, or have them in her “bloodline.” She makes it clear as she bellows:
“Don’t want you in my bloodline, yeah
Just wanna have a good time, yeah
And no need to apologize, no
But you gon’ have to let this sh*t go.”
“fake smile,” a personal favorite on the album is Ariana speaking pure truth. After reflecting the past year all of her trials, tribulations and obstacles, Ariana makes it crystal clear that it IS okay to not be okay. She can no longer pretend to be happy when she is not and she will not apologize for it. “F*ck a fake smile,” the singer bellows throughout the chorus.
“bad idea,” also produced by Max Martin and ILYA uses a real zesty futuristic appeal as Ariana sings about making all of the possible wrong decisions with her lover.
“make up,” is a treat for all of the R&B lovers. Ariana channels a Beyoncé vibe in her flow and delivery while staying true to her own voice. With clever lines, a shout out to Rihanna’s, “Fenty Beauty,” Ariana floats over the track effortlessly. She’s content with being at odds with her lover because the anger brings even sweeter lover in the end.
“ghostin” is potentially the most passionate, yet ironic track on the album. Another produced by Max Martin and ILYA, the song’s focus is being with someone but truly loving and wanting another person. The cloudy, hypnotic production and Ariana’s pure voice paints a vivid picture of what seems to be her relationship with Pete Davidson following the death of Grande’s ex, Mac Miller. Throughout the chorus Grande somewhat consoles her lover because she knows it must be heartbreaking for him to see her truly hurting over someone else.
“I know that it breaks your heart when I cry again
Over him, mmh
I know that it breaks your heart when I cry again
‘Stead of ghostin’ him.”
“in my head,” begins with a voice recording from Grande’s friend Doug Middlebrook. Checking Ari, Doug tells her that the reason she’s experiencing this disconnect with her lover is because she has generated a perfect version of them in her head. Grande sings about the how her imagination has allowed her to visualize this person that really isn’t who she thought they were.
The song hints at Grande’s hasty relationship with Pete Davidson. She flexes on her mysterious lover as she sings,
“Yeah, look at you (You), boy, I invented you
Your Gucci tennis shoes, runnin’ from your issues
Cardio good for the heart (For the heart).”
This “boss-up” energy is immediately met with the stunt anthem, “7 rings.” The trap vibe shows listeners a braggadocios Ariana. Instead of being a helpless damsel in distress, after much champagne, Grande levels all the way up. She uses “7 rings” to boast about her body, her wealth, friendships and her strength. The tune is definitely an anthem for all independent women as Ari affirms that they do not need a man for anything.
“thank u, next” flows pretty well as listeners arrive to the album titled track near the end of the album. As a tasteful ode to her exes and the future, “thank u, next,” the singer’s first Billboard No. 1 hit single, is an upbeat, positive breath of fresh air. Instead of being bitter, Grande again uses her trials and pain to create a moment in history that people of all ages can relate to.
The album’s last song, “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored” is eerie yet smooth and sensual. Ariana tells another story of spotting a guy that she immediately craves sexually but discovers he has a girlfriend. Usually she does not feel this way, but is willing to risk it all and “take” this guy regardless of his relationship status. She hides nothing in the lyricism with lines as such:
“Took one f*ckin’ look at your face (Hmm)
Now I wanna know how you taste (Mmm-mmm)
Usually don’t give it away (Yeah, yeah)
But you know I’m out here thinkin’ ’bout it”
The song acts as a double entendre because while the lyrics suggest stealing someone’s dude, the visual for the song projects self love. In the video, Ariana assumes the role of the girlfriend and apparently breaks up with him to love herself more.
Overall, “thank u, next” displays a much more serious Ariana. Instead of the whimsical pop songs that make you feel like you are floating air, the production (while still remaining true to Ariana’s sound) is very mature. The album’s core while maintaining upbeat production possesses a darker essence. Posing as Grande’s diary, “thank u, next” is filled with self affirmations, self evaluation, liberation and much reflection.
In response to a fan, Ari shared that the album actually took place over the course of “3 of the worst weeks” of her life.
yes lol. the whole thing takes place over the course of like 3 of the worst weeks of my life. we brought as much light to it as we could tho.
— Ariana Grande (@ArianaGrande) November 24, 2018
The best part of this album is? It does not serve as a label move to receive awards or recognition. “thank u, next” is a testament to Grande using her craft as an outlet to escape from the pain and hardships of life. It is not perfect but it does not have to be. The album shows that she is almost certainly on the same level of other rising and prominent Hip-Hop stars and can release music whenever and however she pleases.