Ariana Grande’s star-studded career has been taken to a whole new level. After the release of Sweetener in August of last year and the announcement of her fourth world tour to begin in March, Ariana Grande became Billboard’s 2018 “Woman of the Year”. This past Sunday, she also won a much-deserved Grammy for “Best Pop Vocal Album”. While the artist has skyrocketed into a whole new dimension as a musician, she publicly mentioned that this year has also been the worst for her personally. She has spoken out about the traumatic 2017 bombing at her concert in Manchester and how that completely changed the way she looked at life. Following the release of Sweetener, the music world lost legend Mac Miller, ex-boyfriend, and close friend of Ariana’s, and following that she also ended her engagement with Pete Davidson.
Given all that Ariana has been through, in the last couple of months, she has surrounded herself with nothing but love, friendship, and of course, music. She released hit “thank u, next” in November, a game-changer for her career, as well as the title track to her recent LP, which was released just last week. If you thought that Sweetener was the album we all needed, wait until you hear thank u, next, because both albums have managed to empower and uplift anyone who’s going through anything.
The LP opens up with the single “imagine,” a hopelessly romantic ballad that dreamily depicts a world in which the love and passion in a relationship overcome the gritty realities. “Imagine a world like that,” Grande commands convincingly. The lyrics captivate the “only two in the world” feeling when in love, and the stillness of the moment flees like a good dream.“Quick quick quick, let’s go,” she calls, as if to say, “let’s stay in this little bubble of lovely movie-like moments before the real shit catches up to us.”
Ariana sings of needing companionship, love, and compassion in, “needy.” Reviving the sweet-sounding strings from previous songs, “Honeymoon Avenue” and “Tattooed Heart,” Grande admits “I can be needy,” because at the end of the day, who isn’t? Despite what the haters say about the pop artist, she vows, “Imma scream and shout for what I love/Passionate but I don’t give a f*ck.” Ariana reminds everyone that she is unbreakable, but at the end of the day, she’s a human being (like all of us) with needs of her own.
Shangela Wadley, an icon and friend of Ariana’s, opens “NASA” saying, “This is one small step for woman, one giant leap for womankind.” A countdown of sorts that shoots us straight into an anthem about reclaiming yourself and your identity in a relationship. Ariana sings, “There ain’t nothing wrong with saying, I need me time.” Ariana plays with the metaphor of stars, space, and orbits, similar to the theme in her music video for “God is a Woman,” which we can only assume is a reflection of her ongoing self discovery and exploration. The catchy hook, “Imma need space,” validates that there is equal importance in the time you spend with your loved ones as in the time you spend with yourself.
In “bloodline” Ariana Grande admits she’s in love with the idea of being in love, but in this song she seems to be putting that aside: “I ain’t looking for my true love, yeah that ship sailed away…don’t want you in my bloodline.” In an interview with Zach Sang, Grande confidently joked that her bloodline is, “closed for maintenance.”
In the single “7 rings,” Ariana acts on the timeless motto that sometimes diamonds and best friends are all you need. Sampling the melody from Sound of Music’s “Favorite Things,” Grande has her own take on Beyonce’s “Flawless,” as she lists luxuries like, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s and bottles with bubbles.” (Fun fact: there was a lot of champagne consumed in the making of this LP). She cheekily pokes fun at the phrase “money can’t buy happiness,” singing, “Happiness is the same price as my red bottoms.” In a nutshell, retail therapy plus champagne plus your besties equals a good time.
The fifth track, “fake smile” is one of the songs I needed to hear most, and I hope you can relate! Ariana sings about having to cover up her anger, sadness–really any emotion with a “fake smile.” It can get exhausting pretending to be happy all the time, and the song explains, “I can’t fake another smile, I can’t fake like I’m alright.” Ariana touches on being, “happy for the love and all of the above,” expressing gratitude for her successful career, her devoted fans, and everything music has offered her. Ariana comes in soft and angelic with “ghostin,” which she explains in a response to a fan on Twitter, “about feeling badly for the person you’re with bc you love somebody else. Feeling badly bc he can tell he can’t compare…. and how I should be ghosting him.” When talking to Zach Sang, Ariana said this song is the only one won’t listen to on the album, but she agreed with her manager and her friends that it’s one her fans needed to hear from her.
In “bad idea” Ariana mentions gaining control in her life. She has several “bad ideas” she has had with whomever she’s speaking to in the song, telling them to “numb the pain,” depicting the common urge we sometimes have to escape our lives. Following this song, “make up,” is a witty play on words about making up in a relationship and actual makeup. The production in this song is really unique, “I love it when we make up go ‘head ruin my make up,” she describes teasing a person’s emotions just so they’re even more passionate when it comes to the make-up sex. Honestly, if anyone can make a song about getting rid of pent up emotions in bed and make it sound all sweet and bubbly, it’s Ari.
The final song on the album is “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored,” a song that got a lot of attention on its own. The song comes in hot with this catchy rhythm that lies under Grande’s vocals, “You got me some type of way, ain’t used to feeling this way…” The story behind the lyrics follows Ariana as she catches feelings for a guy at first sight, but he has a girlfriend. So, Ariana promises him everything he could imagine as long as he breaks up with his girlfriend. Based on the lyrics and the storyline in the music video (which was dropped a day later), fans believe this song to be an unconventional self-love anthem where Ariana is asking her boyfriend to break up with her so that she can grow in her relationship with herself.
While this isn’t your typical break-up album, Ariana Grande is bolder than ever in her stylized production and her lyrics which embody everything she has been feeling up to this point. This album couldn’t have come at a better time, both for Ariana and for her fans. She credits much of this work to her incredible friends, the support from her fans, and music which she describes is her reason for existing. Thank u, next is a celebration of independence, companionship, heartbreak, success, love, loss, and everything that comes with a full life.