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Decoding “thank u, next”: Ariana Gracefully Addresses Past Pain

Have you heard Ariana Grande’s newest track yet? It was released Nov. 3 with no prior announcement and, let me tell you, it had everyone’s jaws on the ground.

So, I thought I would take you guys through some of the shadiest, most shocking lyrics in “thank u, next” and tell you all about their meanings in case you’re unfamiliar with Ariana and her previous relationships – because, spoiler alert, she name drops almost all of them!

The song starts with the following lyrics:

Thought I’d end up with Sean

But he wasn’t a match


Source: ExtraTV

Ariana and Big Sean dated for about eight months in 2015. They have quite a few songs together actually, including “Best Mistake,” “Right There,” and “Research.” Sources claimed that the two had conflicting touring schedules but ended their relationship amicably. In fact, when Ariana released this song, she revealed to fans that Sean heard the song prior to its release.

Wrote some songs about Ricky

Now I listen and laugh


Source: Popsugar

After she dated Big Sean, Ariana decided to shift gears and keep her relationship a bit private when she started dating Ricky Alvarez. Ricky became Ariana’s backup dancer in 2014 and the two started dating sometime in June 2015. Ariana wrote quite a few songs about Ricky, including lot of the songs from her “Dangerous Woman” album such as “Moonlight” and “Forever Boy/Knew Better.”

Neither of them confirmed the reason behind the breakup, but Ariana revealed that she had also shown him the song prior to its release. Ricky even posted a video on Instagram of him listening to this lyric and feigning sadness and a photo talking about his gratitude for the singer, to which Ariana responded with that it was all out of love.

Even almost got married

And for Pete I’m so thankful

Source: AOL

Most recently, Ariana began dating and actually got engaged to SNL cast member Pete Davidson. The two moved quite quickly, getting engaged after only about two weeks of dating. But according to her song “Pete Davidson,” Ariana had been waiting to be with Pete for quite a long time and this was somewhat of a dream come true for her.

Unfortunately, the relationship and engagement recently came to an end, and Ariana has been using this new music as her way of healing – despite having just released her fourth studio album “Sweetener” in August 2018. She even got upset over a joke Pete made on SNL about the breakup, but since deleted the tweets. Pete then went on SNL again and express his respect for his ex-girlfriend, just as she did in the song for him.

Wish I could say thank you to Malcolm

Cause he was an angel

Source: People

Ariana dated Mac Miller beginning in August 2016, but the two had a friendship dating all the way back to 2013 when Ariana released her single “The Way” featuring the rapper. In May 2018, TMZ reported that the two had broken up but remained friends.

Ariana confirmed the break up and spoke about the fact that Mac’s problems with his sobriety were a tough part of their relationship, but she held onto the fact that she loved and respected him so much. Sadly, on Sept. 7, Mac passed away due to an accidental drug overdose. Ariana posted about him a few times, and this line is her way of paying tribute to her dear friend who she has so much to thank for.

The last lyric I want to discuss is this one, because it may seem a bit cryptic to those who don’t follow Ariana closely:

One day I’ll walk down the aisle

Holding hands with my mama

I’ll be thanking my dad

Cause she grew from the drama

Source: Hollywood Life

This public thank you to her father came as a shock to many fans – including myself – as Ariana has been public about her estranged relationship with her father, Edward Butera. She didn’t give details, but she mentioned falling out of touch with him in 2014 and coming to terms with not getting along with him. Despite their relationship having its ups and downs, Ariana claims in this lyric that she’s grateful for him, but her mother will be the one who walks her down the aisle.

Regardless of the numerous lyrics in the song that seem pretty shady, the song is actually all about Ariana being thankful for all these people who have been in her life at some point because they’ve all taught her something. And, from all those things they’ve taught her, she’s learned how to love herself and put herself first. She even talks about how she’s found someone new to love, “And her name is Ari.” I would highly recommend that you listen to the song if you get the chance. Not only is it catchy, but it has a great message behind it – find the positive parts of everything and learn from your pain.


Hello! I’m Adrianna and I’m a freshman Communications major at Marist College.
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