Ariana Grande released her brand new album entitled thank u, next last night, and it’s a beautiful, heartbreaking, and often times upbeat dedication to the highest highs and the lowest lows of her life thus far.
After releasing her Sweetener album in August last year, which she dedicated to the Manchester Arena terror attack, Grande continued to go through a rough time, losing her ex boyfriend Mac Miller to substance abuse, and breaking off her engagement to comedian Pete Davidson. At such an emotional period in her life, Ariana took to the studio to vent her emotions in the best way she knew how – singing.
Her voice has adapted over the years to suit her RnB inspired pop music, and she’s come a long way since her first album Yours Truly, ditching her belting ballads for sultry, refreshing bluesy vocals. And now Ariana has switched it up again, surprising everyone with her absolute honesty and vulnerability running through her lyrics.
With songs written by herself, as well as collaborations from Savan Kotecha, Ilya Salmanzadeh and Victoria Monét, the latter of which she gave one of her famous 7 Tiffany rings to (“7 rings“), the album is a complete collection of love, darkness and progression.
Opening with “imagine”, a former single that first released December 13 2018, the album throws us in the deep end of her emotional journey. The sharp yet somber sound is accompanied by lyrics depicting a perfect world for Ariana. She wishes for this unattainable goal of happiness, stressing that it shouldn’t have to be unattainable. Perhaps alluding to her ex Pete Davidson, she is implying he is not as perfect as she thought he was.
“needy” is definitely on our summer playlist – the perfect tune for the beach. It’s pop infused with bubblegum, with a sort of mellow twist. As for the lyrics, though, they tell a slightly different story to what we expect. She sings: “I admit that I’m a lil’ messed up” in the pre chorus, as she apologises for the way she’s become over time.
Although it isn’t her fault, she places the blame on herself, saying she “can’t help it”. Her openness in this song makes it one of her most outstanding ones to date. She also returns to her Yours Truly days at the end of the song, adding about 40 seconds worth of strings.
Fans of Grande are aware of her adoration for NASA, so appropriately she uses this for her anti-ballad. In the song she asks for space (hence, “NASA”) from her partner, she feels smothered by him and needs her own time to grow.
Her feelings probably stem from her stardom (“You know I’m a star”), as she feels consumed by the negative effects of her career choice. She is literally smothered with attention everyday, so it’s no wonder she’d like her own space to heal.
Next comes a 21st century woman empowering tune, Ariana just wants to have fun here, and she does. “bloodline” is definitely one of the catchier ones from the album, with fast beats edging on a reggae-style tune. “Love me, thank you, leave me”, might also allude to her famous single “thank u, next”.
“fake smile” opens with an old-fashioned voice recording. It starts off eerie, and continues that way into the first verse. She sings, “If I go alone I’m not gon’ make it very far”, but as the song breaks into the pre chorus, we realise the song explores her anxieties and mental health. “I can’t fake another smile” is accompanied with a slow beat before transitioning into something much warmer-sounding with “f*** a fake smile”.
“ghostin” is a sorrowful ballad about Ariana’s struggles to let go from past hurt, and understandably too, since this is the rawest, realest track on the album. “Though I wish he were here instead // Don’t want that livin’ in your head // He just comes to visit me // When I’m dreaming every now and then” – Ariana’s pain is amplified in this sentence, although when infused with the song, it seems to emit lightness instead of darkness.
Presumably about Pete Davidson, “in my head” tackles Grande’s insecurities about a man she thought she knew, who was actually just a figment of her imagination. In her darkest time, she thought she needed somebody to get her through it, but in the end she could only help herself.
“break up with your girlfriend” samples NSYNC, and it’s a song we never knew we needed. With 2000s vibes blended with 2019 beats, this catchy tune is an excellent finish to the album. It’s cheeky, a little bit wrong, but it’s human. It’s real. And that’s exactly what we’ve missed from Grande in her previous albums. Finally she is showing us her true self, and she isn’t afraid of what people think.
Ariana Grande’s thank u, next is out now via Republic Records, and is available for purchase on iTunes here. Alternatively, you can stream it below.
Words by Nicole Russell