Some Fans Say, “thank u, next” to Ariana After New Album

Pop sensation Ariana Grande’s newest album, “thank u, next” has surpassed 1.1 billion streams on Spotify since its release on February 8th, less than a week ago.  Possibly, the most talked about musical venture since the release of its first single in November, “thank u, next” has taken the charts by storm. Rolling Stone calls the album, “[Grande’s] best album yet” and “a glorious pop rush” (Sheffield, 2019).

However, not all listeners are fans of Ariana’s new record. Some see it as empowered and bold in the face of the recent trauma and grief Grande has experienced.  A bombing at one of her concerts, the death of her close friend and ex-boyfriend Mac Miller, and her failed engagement to Pete Davidson all inspired the emotions behind this album. Others see, “thank u, next” as selfish, superficial, and anti-love. While it is true that the most romantic thing about the album is its release near Valentine’s Day, Ariana seems to be in favor of trading romance for self-love in this time of healing. Unfortunately, this self-love may be understood by some listeners as arrogance based on some lyrics.

The first track, “imagine,” features Ari’s typical vocal riffs and high notes, romantic lyrics, and a catchy chorus.  It shows promise for the rest of the album, transitioning into “needy,” a song about depending on a significant other.  Ariana sings, “I can be needy, so hard to please me / I know it feels so good to be needed,” and “Sorry that I think I'm not enough / And sorry if I say sorry way too much / You can go ahead and call me selfish.”  Strangely, the sentiments in “needy” do not seem to fit into the theme of self-reliance expressed by the rest of the album.  Track 3, “NASA,” continues with the “Miss Independent” vibes, as Ari sings about needing space in relationships: “You know I’m a star, I’ma need space.”  This is a fun, girl-power type tune - not exactly your Valentine’s Day soundtrack, but definitely a good one for your Galentine’s night out.

 

 Coming in with a beat you can dance to, “bloodline” is about Ari having a good time without looking for her “one true love.”  In track 5, “fake smile,” Grande gets real about what she has gone through in this past season of her life.  “If I’m being honest I done been through way too much / I can’t fake another smile, I can’t fake like I’m alright,” is the pop singer leveling with fans about soldiering through her grief and not always being okay.

“bad idea” poses as an outlier similar to “needy” in this overarching trend of self-reliance.  Ariana sings, “I got a bad idea, yeah I’ma call you over here to numb the pain.”  While not an anthem of female empowerment, the premise of this track is authentic: people do not always handle pain in the beneficial of ways.  In “make up,” the lyrics discuss breaking up simply to patch things up again, a typical phenomenon in relationships, albeit unhealthy. “ghostin” seems to be written about Mac Miller, while Ari sings, “Oh, I wish he were here instead / Don't want that living in your head / He just comes to visit me / When I'm dreaming every now and then.”  The beat is haunting compared to the rest of the albums, but maintains the same dreamy vibes characteristic of Ariana Grande’s music.

“in my head” tells the story of Ari being deluded by someone: “Thought you were the one / But it was all in my head.”  Fans can easily relate to this track with experiences of their own of building someone up in their mind only to be disappointed.  Next up is “7 rings,” the main reason some people have interpreted this album as shallow or superficial.  Influenced by the song “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music, Ariana flaunts her wealth as she sings of treating herself and her friends to expensive things.  Alternatively, this song could intend to send the message that Ari doesn’t need a man.  The title song of the album and a smash hit, “thank u, next” garnered its own fame before its long-awaited music video elevated it to even higher success.  Ariana drew inspiration from several classic chick-flicks, from Mean Girls to Legally Blonde, and featured several celebrities in the video.  The last track on the record and an especially controversial one is “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored.”  Girlfriends took to Twitter to express their concern over this song:

But, as Ariana sang in the song, “I know it ain’t right / But I don’t care.”  Ladies, if your boyfriend breaks up with you because he’s bored, you’re probably better off.

So, whether you’re a diehard Ari fan or you cannot stand her music, few artists can land seven of an album’s twelve songs in Spotify’s Global Top Ten mere days after its release, release two spectacular records in the span of six months, or have this level of success with an album with no features.  Considering the multiple traumatic events in Grande’s personal life, “thank u, next” is an outstanding show of strength and resilience and a well-crafted record in its own right.