From the moment Ariana Grande’s released ‘thank u, next’, it was evident those three simple words would become a cultural phenomenon for someone’s immediate response to unnecessary drama or past relationships. From Instagram captions to the anthem of 2019, the single took the world by storm as people praised Grande’s message of self-love while refusing to hold back any punches on name dropping her ex-boyfriends.
Grande didn’t stop there. She began to change the way artists released tracks and how often they did so.
“My dream has always been to […] to put out music in the way that a rapper does. I feel like there are certain standards that pop women are held to that men aren’t,” Grande said in an interview with Billboard. “I just want to f-ng talk to my fans and sing and write music and drop it the way these boys do. Why do they get to make records like that and I don’t?’ So I do and I did and I am, and I will continue to.”
Since the release of ‘thank u, next’ Grande released two singles titled ‘imagine’ and ‘7 rings’ with a music video to accompany ‘7 rings.’ Throughout the months leading up to her new album, Grande continued to keep a heavy social media presence by interacting with her fans on Twitter by answering their questions and receiving their love and support.
Eventually ‘thank u, next’ would become the title of her highly anticipated album that dropped Thursday night alongside the music video for her next single ‘break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored.’ The album comes just six months after her predecessor album ‘Sweetener,’ — an album that took a sweeter approach than the contrasting direction taken in ‘thank u, next.’
In 12 tracks, Grande gives fans a look into her “rollercoaster” of emotions from past relationships to striving for self-discovery through independence. With Grande’s life placed on the global stage, people watched as she ended her five-month engagement to SNL comedian Pete Davidson following the death of her ex-boyfriend of two years, rapper Mac Miller. Fans could only imagine the type of tracks Grande would release.
Let’s just say Grande definitely had some tears left to cry thus creating one of her most honest and raw albums to date.
The album kicks off with the dreamy track that is “imagine.” Previously released on its own late last year, ‘imagine’ encourages listeners to reflect on a past relationship and as Grande further describes in a tweet, the track is “a simple, beautiful love that is now (and forever) unattainable.”
“imagine” serves as the best track to open the record and even fits the role as a transition from her last album to the new one. The track is a reminiscence of the healing felt in “Sweetener” to the touching yet powerful tracks in “thank u, next.” One could also not forget her remarkable whistle tones that had people cracking high notes at numerous attempts.
Grande then falls into a deep soliloquy of a hopeless romantic on “needy” as she sings about being unapologetically, well, needy.
“You can go ahead and call me selfish/But after all this damage, I can’t help it/But what you can trust is I need your touch,” Grande sings.
While the pop sensation is pleading for support and affection Grande completely flips the switch in the following track, “NASA.”
While there is an absence of features on the album, a number of tracks begin with a voice recording of someone close to the Grande family. In the case of “NASA,” the track places a female empowerment spin on the iconic words muttered by Neil Armstrong when he took the first steps on the moon in 1969. “This is one small step for woman/One giant leap for woman-kind,” RuPaul’s Drag Race star D.J. “Shangela” Pierce recites.
The track not only advocates for independence and self-improvement but Grande does so by using various phrases related to space exploration. The lyrics read: “You don’t wanna leave me, but I’m tryna self-discover/Keep me in your orbit and you know you’ll drag me under.”
Grande has always made it clear how important the women in her life are to her so it would only be appropriate that ‘bloodline’ begins with a voice recording from her grandmother. Continuing on the trend of independence, “bloodline” expresses this sentiment in a brassy upbeat tune that is guaranteed to pull a “neck roll with the attitude.”
The musical production on the album bursts with creativity as Grande samples tracks from other artists with her own unique spin. Wendy Rene’s, ‘After Laughter (Comes Tears)’ – a number that has been sampled on numerous occasions in the hip-hop. The chorus to ‘After Laughter’ can be heard in “fake smile” for what is seemingly Grande’s anthem for how she faced the public considering the cards life dealt her in the past two years.
A notable sample came from the late Mac Miller’s track “2009.” Grande sampled her ex-boyfriend’s track in one of the most heart-wrenching songs on the record titled “ghostin.” The song is not only a tribute to Miller but is also written about Davidson. The lyrics read “I know that it breaks your heart when I cry again/Over him, mhm/I know that it breaks your heart when I cry again/’Stead of ghostin’ him.”
From all of the tracks on the album, “ghostin” is by far one of the stand-outs and encapsulates the meaning behind what Grande writes as “baggage.” The song is one of her most honest set of lyrics performed to an orchestral dynamic meant to convey her pain through each verse she sings.
Also featured on the album are previously released singles “7 rings” and “thank u, next” which currently occupy the first two slots of Grande’s most popular songs on Spotify. These tracks epitomize the dynamic ponytail turn made from a hopeful soul in ‘Sweetener’ to a fierce and self-loving advocate in “thank u, next.”
Grande wraps up the record with a fierce banger titled “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored” that is recognized as the Grande’s next single. A music video for the homewreckers hymn was dropped the same night of the album’s release.
To wanting her love interest to “numb the pain” in “Bad idea,” giving a nod to Rihanna’s makeup line Fenty in “makeup” and inventing the perfect image of a love interest in “in my head,” Grande serves fans a plethora of tracks that are open to whichever interpretation based on one’s experiences.
Nonetheless, Grande dominates her record with her impeccable vocals and it’s no surprise Grande’s tenacity to continuously produce tracks is forming her into everyone’s favorite pop star.
Her decision to be vulnerable in her art is benefitting her in ways that give her control in her own narrative. A sense of command in which no one can strip Grande of her passion nor any media outlet could tarnish. This is just the beginning and nothing is stopping her now, yuh.
4.5 / 5 stars.
Karolina Rivas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.