The trajectory for Thank U, Next for Ariana Grande, has been quite interesting to watch. Her fifth album drops a mere 4 months after “Sweetener” released, which fans didn’t enjoy, but R&B fans embraced Ariana’s new sound. It also comes after her whirlwind of the much-publicized romance with SNL actor, Pete Davidson. The two dated, got engaged, and then broke up within less than 5 months. And then, Ariana loss her former lover, Mac Miller after 2 years of dating and shortly after their breakup. With all of this, of course, Thank U, Next is Grande’s most personal record to date, where she shares her feelings of mourning, heartbreak, wanting to be alone, and stealing other people’s men.
“Thank U, Next” was the first single from the album, which was the perfect window into the direction where the album leads us in Ariana’s musical journey. The mid-tempo track shares her love and loss with her former beaus and focusing on herself in her singledom. “Thank U, Next” quickly became not only a meme, but also an anthem for many, and became Grande’s first #1 single to not only debuted at the top of Billboard’s Hot 100, but the track also remained on the charts for seven nonconsecutive weeks.
The album thrust Ariana into a mature sound, an artist who is sure of the music she’s creating and the idea of herself as well. Also, she has entirely crafted what Mariah has always been great at, merging pop and R&B perfectly (with a hint of Broadway). She enlisted Tommy Brown, Max Martin, Ilya Salmanzadeh and Andrew “Pop” Wansel as the primary producers of the album.
The album is her most cohesive and cemented her as the Queen of Pop that once was held by Taylor Swift and Katy Perry.
“Imagine” opens the album with strong instrumentation and the beautiful ballad of what could have been with a former lover. It captures exactly where she is in her life; it’s haunting yet alluring. “Ghosting” high evocative of Mac Miller, which samples his track “2009” from his final album Swimming. In “Fake Smile” she addresses the pressure she faces as she’s become a fixture in pop culture and tabloids, which in all pop stars, they tend to point out within their career — Michael Jackson & Janet Jackson in “Scream” and Britney Spears “Piece of Me.”
“Bloodline” and “NASA” are two standout tracks that are quintessential fun pop tracks; they are catchy and classic Ariana. Grande’s vocals are strong while flowing over the dance beats and she’s confident in the lyrics and music. Love the juxtaposition of “NASA,” lyrically “Yeah, I’m just sayin’, baby/I can’t really miss you if I’m with you/And when I miss you, it’ll change the way I kiss you.” A song about needing space and wanting to be alone is followed by “needy,” “I can be needy/tell me how good it feels to be needed/I can be needy, so hard to please me.” In typical millennial dating fashion, wanting to be alone to reset but also a dire need for attention and validation isn’t singularly felt by Ariana; there’s an entire generation who are always going back and forth with both feelings.
“7 Rings,” the second single from the LP drew attention to Grande as many hip-hop fans deemed her for cultural appropriation for the trap beat, the visuals’ similarity to 2 Chainz’s Trap House in Atlanta and the melody being identical with Soulja Boy’s “Pretty Boy Swag,” and Princess Nokia’s “Mine.” “7 Rings,” is one of the weakest tracks on a strong album, although it plays into Grande’s feminist narrative as a “friendship anthem” compared to the rest of the album, it lacks depth but is a great single. It’s hypnotic and fun, which is why it’s been #1 on the Billboard charts for four weeks until she dropped the last song on the album. The album ends with “Break Up with Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored” as the perfect song in the Kardashian era, where your man is my man — also an ode to SZA. Despite the lyrical content, it’s the sister to “Thank U, Next,” it’s sultry, with a bold chorus on how she’s lusting after a guy who should end things with his bae because she needs attention. The lyrics are addictive and an unexpected anthem. “Break Up with Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored,” will have 90’s babies feeling nostalgic as Grande samples *NSYNC “It Makes Me Ill,” during the bridge, giving Kandi Burruss another royalty check with the countless others she collected over the years.
Thank U, Next proves Ariana is here to stay by capturing our love for her by sharing her trials and tribulations over pop fusion R&B songs. Thank U, Next also gives Ariana multiple magnum opus that every artist needs in their career to secure icon status. While many may have 1, Ariana has three from ONE album.