Ariana Grande’s rapid rise was unexpected; rarely does a Disney Channel or Nickelodeon child star shrug off their slapstick history and climb to such heights of popularity. With her high pony in tow, Grande released her fifth studio album and her second in six months. I’m getting fatter from how well she’s keeping me fed.
With thank u, next shattering records every day, you would expect it to be peak, generic pop. But it is perhaps her most lyrically intimate work. She draws us in, hugs us, and whispers her all too relatable problems in our ears. But by the end of the twelve tracks, everyone’s ready to paint the town pink.
Unlike sweetener, a singular voice ripples through thank u, next. But this doesn’t restrict the album’s dynamism in genre. After the first track, ‘imagine’ (where Grande showcases her Mariah Careyian whistle tones), ‘needy’ strikes a sombre chord. But by the third track, Grande veers the album into bop territory with ‘nasa’ and ‘bloodline’. The former was popular enough to get the eponymous organisation’s attention on Twitter, the latter is deserving of some Beyoncé-level choreography to match its slick beats. Later, ‘bad idea’ picks up similar themes to ‘nasa’, but within a surprising and expressive orchestral break planted in the middle.
Other upbeat tracks on thank u, next are very much there for show. Although they lack substance, ‘7 rings’ and ‘make up’ are fun additions to the track list.
Because of their relatable themes, three songs in particular make thank u, next stand out: ‘needy’, ‘ghostin’ and ‘in my head’. Each wants to air out the negative energy that might sprout from a relationship. In ‘needy’, Grande expresses how seemingly burdensome a person with baggage can feel to be on their partner. ‘ghostin’ picks up on similar themes of the past and the mental anchors we get tied to along the way. ‘in my head’ is about idolising a romantic partner by projecting a particular vision onto them. And when this ultimately collapses, as Grande articulates, her heart is left broken and she must deal with the balance between betrayal from him and betrayal from herself, too.
With the final two songs, we finish with a punch. ‘thank u, next’, the title track, stands a chance of becoming a classic break-up song that breaks with conventional wisdom on the topic, veering towards the lessons learnt rather than the animosity and regrets picked up. Such a legacy is also fuelled by a stand out music video that smartly parodies four seminal films of Grande’s generation. The album ends with a sexy and fun note. ‘break up with your boyfriend, I’m bored’ is exactly what it says on the tin.
thank u, next breaches new ground that leaves sweetener shaking. On a lyrical level, we hear blossoms of intimate truths that resonate with personal experiences. Donning a ‘fake smile’ is something we can all relate to. And heed her message we must: it is better to take off the mask and speak our truths than to destroy ourselves from the inside out.