Album Review of Ariana Grande's 'Thank U, Next'

Ariana Grande: *releases two albums in six months*

Arianators: “Gee thanks, just bought it.”

It’s an impressive feat for an artist in this era of having to wait years for a follow up album. It’s rather normal to wait two-plus years to hear a new body of music or even a single from certain artists, but since her debut album, Yours Truly, in 2013, Ariana Grande has proved that she’s here to stay in our hearts and in our ears.

2018 was a difficult year for Grande, filled with heartbreak and mourning—the two interchangeable as the pop superstar dealt with the death of her ex-boyfriend, famous rap star, Mac Miller, and the end of her engagement with comedian, Pete Davidson. It was a battle of riding on the high of the response to her relatively experimental album, Sweetener, and dealing with the downs her life was dealing her. Ariana has been somewhat candid about this dark time in her life, her Tweets and Instagram story showcasing a melancholy side of the singer.

So when her sixth album, Thank U, Next, was announced less than six months after her last album, fans were over the moon and it came with the expectation (for me at least) that this album would prove to be one riddled with soulful ballads that edged more towards the R&B sound that Grande has proved time and time again her voice suits so perfectly. And while the first singles, “thank u, next” and “7 rings” were a success, breaking Billboard, YouTube and streaming records, my belief was that these were the surface level songs that would get everyone talking.

The reality was that it was a sister to Sweetener. What I began noticing when Ariana released "7 Rings" was the hip-hop approach and trap beats I began hearing quite a bit of in her songs. For example, the end of “bad idea” concludes with an outro of trap beats. This can also be heard in “make up,” “in my head” and “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored.” I’ll also note the use of horns and drums similar to reggae/dance hall music in “bloodline.” But it works. It’s not what was expected, but Ariana’s evolution also gives us a reminder of the continuing evolution of pop into this convolution of catchy rhythms and riffs along with the cadence of rap/trap songs that, for years, have made it easy for rap artists to hop on tracks such as these.

The songs that really reflect the reality of Ariana’s tumultuous last few months are “fake smile” and “ghostin.” “Fake smile” touches on the expectations of artists to keep a fake public persona to appease fans even if it doesn’t reflect their true selves, while “ghostin” touches on the passing of Mac Miller and how Ariana thanks Pete for supporting her while she mourned, noting that “we’ll get past this. I’m a girl with a whole lotta baggage.”

Other sultry songs that showcase her vocal talent include the singles “imagine” and “needy.”

All in all, I wouldn’t say it’s her greatest album, but a good addition to her growing discography. However, the fact can’t be ignored that the singles on this album made history only matched by the Beatles, her album broke streaming records and it marked a period worth celebrating. The album was a period of female empowerment, self-love and friendship. Ariana shows us that a sad year doesn’t equal sad music. Channel all of the negativity in your life into something positive.