At midnight on February 7th, Ariana Grande dropped her greatly anticipated (and speculated upon, as recapped in Andrea Atanacio’s recent article) fifth studio album, “thank u, next”. Released only months after Grande’s August 2018 album, “Sweetener”, “thank u, next” may be considered the edgier, vulnerable, and, at times, straight up badass little sister of “Sweetener”. The album named single “thank u, next” topped charts internationally and broke records as the most streamed song in a single day by a female artist on Spotify, with an astonishing 8.19 million streams globally, when it was released on November 3rd, 2018. The track would also go on to break records as the fastest song to hit over 100 million streams on Spotify in just eleven days. This, and her release of other “thank u, next” singles “imagine” and “7 rings”, sparked a frenzy in fans eager to hear the full album.
Here, I will disclose my first impressions of the album in its entirety, track by track:
Released prior to the full album drop, “imagine” was instantly one of my favourite Grande songs. With its catchy tune and complicated melodic arrangement, it’s hard not to love this song. I particularly love how she drops the music the first time she sings the chorus, allowing her powerful vocals to truly shine. The whistle tones used heavily at the end remind us of older Ari music–a classic move of the singer that was seriously lacking in “Sweetener”.
“Good at overthinking with my heart” describes this confessional track. Although the melody is soft and sweet, the lyrics vulnerably convey insecurities so many of us feel in a relationship like: “sorry that I think I’m not enough” and “I’m obsessive and I love too much”.
A stark contrast to the raw emotions in “needy”, NASA is a cry for space from a clingy relationship. An anthem of independence, it’s the perfect track to bop when you’re feeling lonely and want to be reminded that self-love and the relationship you have with yourself is just as important as any other relationship in your life.
Grande continues the cry for independence in “bloodline”, which upbeat lyrics demand sex without strings attached. This is such a bop, filled with lyrics like “I know what you’re looking for but I’m complete/ I know what you need but it won’t be me”. She sounds confident and unapologetic, creating an anthem that doesn’t shy away from stating women want sexual freedom just as much as men. The Dangerous Woman era is back, friends.
5. fake smile
Vulnerability returns in “fake smile”, where Grande recognizes all she has been through and declares “I can’t fake another smile”, and who can blame her? From the Manchester shooting and the tragic passing of her ex-boyfriend, Mac Miller, to her very public split with ex-fiance, Pete Davidson, Grande’s been through more in a year than some people can handle in a lifetime. The girl’s entitled to crying “fuck a fake smile” and, due to the intoxicating beat in this song, I’ll shout it with her.
6. bad idea
“bad idea” reveals the sometimes toxic ways we choose to cope with pain. I’m sure we have all felt like calling an ex or someone we know isn’t good for us because we’re lonely, and Grande owns that feeling with lyrics like “I got a bad idea, yeah I’m gonna call you over here to numb the pain”. Overall, this is probably my least favourite track on the album. that said, the bass-heavy beat contrasted by a sudden interlude of classical melodies keeps it from becoming another bland pop ballad.
7. make up
No, this song isn’t about putting on your mascara, although it does mention Fenty Beauty… instead, it’s a passionate love affair with fiery fights and even hotter “make up” sex. Sexual freedom is clearly a common theme in this album, and I’m living for it.
“I’m a girl with a whole lotta baggage” sums up this emotional song, where Grande describes how ghosts of past relationships haunt new ones. If you think, as I do, that this song is about Mac Miller, it becomes a million times harder to listen to. The raw pain is evident in Grande’s voice as she sings “though 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”. Excuse me while I go cry because damn this song is something else.
9. in my head
The classic “love is blind” trope is given a fresh twist in this modern hip-hop inspired track, where Grande emphasizes the way we build someone up and ignore their flaws when falling for them. In contrast to the devastating heartbreak felt in “ghostin”, “in my head” is more of a manifestation of the frustration we feel in ourselves when we get played by someone. The chorus is catchy and proves the singer’s wide vocal range, but, for me, it is overshone by tracks like “bloodline” and “fake smile”.
10. 7 rings
Only Ariana Grande could take a classic song from The Sound of Music and turn it into a modern flex on her celebrity success. Yes, this song is extremely braggy; yes, I can’t relate to it at all because I’m super broke (thanks University!); but, there’s still something super empowering about it. While it is common for male artists (especially rappers) to flaunt their wealth and brag about their success, female artists rarely do so. Grande is challenging these stereotypes and why shouldn’t she? She is currently one of the world’s most successful pop artists–own it, Ari.
11. thank u, next
When this song was first released, I think I listened to it at least ten times in a row, and I highly doubt I was the only one. Again, this song spoke to me because it wasn’t the traditional “screw you” that generally encompasses a break-up track. And, if you’re not a huge fan of the song, there’s no denying that the music video is absolutely iconic.
12. break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored
The controversial title brings me back to the early 2000s when The Pussycat Dolls were singing “Dontcha wish your girlfriend was hot like me” and Avril Lavigne was shouting “I don’t like your girlfriend”. This song is super petty, but it’s also super catchy…so you can believe I’ll be jamming to it for a while.
My favourite tracks after a first listen are, in no particular order: “bloodline”, “needy”, “NASA”, and “ghostin”.
I’m not surprised at all to say I love this new album. Although “Sweetener” was great, “thank u, next” blows it out of the water. Grande proves that even if unthinkable things happen, you can turn that horrible pain into something beautiful. More than that though, this album feels like a release of pain while learning how to love the only person you’ll be with forever: yourself. In my opinion, she is really coming into her own as an artist. She did the bubble gum pop thing, and now has the kind of fan base one can experiment with. I feel like this is the first time we are really hearing the music she wants to produce, and it was well worth the wait. Thank u, Ariana, for such an incredible album.
All Gifs taken from giphy.com