Ariana Grande’s authenticity shines through on “thank u, next”

Courtesy of Republic Records

Upon its initial introduction, I wasn’t particularly excited about Ariana Grande’s newest album.  Listening to “sweetener” one too many times and the fact that it seemed like every radio station was blasting an Ariana Grande single through the airwaves had led to some fatigue and moderate enthusiasm for the artist’s newest project. But upon the release of “thank u, next,” my mind was quickly changed. The world knows that Ariana Grande has had her share of struggles and “thank u, next” is her response to that. On this LP, Grande covers her coping with heartbreak, finding freedom, confidence and discovering her own worth.

The 12-track album opens with her last single of 2018, “imagine,” whose defining feature is its recognizable whistle notes. The song blissfully opens up the record to the wonders of being in love, but also has subtle feelings of longing. In “needy,” Grande sings about her own mistakes in past relationships. The line, “Sorry if I’m up and down a lot / Sorry that I think I’m not enough / And sorry if I say sorry way too much” reveals that Grande knows her own imperfections and blames them on past emotional baggage she carries with her. However, she quickly juxtaposes these feelings on “NASA” which is all about her creating space for herself. The song’s dreamy chorus and bass-heavy bridge easily made it one of my favorites. The next track, “fake smile,” is the first time on the album where we get a real taste of Grande’s internal struggles after all the tragedy she has experienced. Throughout the song, she sings, “I can’t say I’m feeling fine, after what I been through I can’t lie,” covering the difficulty of being in the spotlight in the midst of very public struggles.

The album takes a quick turn away from the sadness as “bad idea” and “make up” are both fun tracks about Grande’s desires while she tries to get over an ex and attempts to fix things with another, respectively. Both tracks also bring in those notable trap beats we all know and love to hear from the singer. The sadness returns in “ghostin,” which is easily the most heart-wrenching track of them all as it follows how she dealt with the loss of her ex-boyfriend, Mac Miller. The line, “Though I wish he were here instead / Don’t want that living in your head / He just comes and visits me / When I’m dreaming every now and then” absolutely tears through your heartstrings at first listen and carries all of the emotions she is feeling as she lies next to the person she is supposed to love. The song’s atmospheric and ambient sound create a very dreamlike aura. She not-so-subtly reveals the theme of wealth and riches on the albums 10th track “7 rings,” which broke records for the artist, debuting at number one in 15 countries.

Followed by the smash hit and title track, “thank u, next” made waves in the music industry as the artist’s first number one single on the US Billboard Hot 100. From calling out her exes by name to becoming an anthem about self discovery and empowerment, Grande’s stardom shone through on this one. On her most straightforward title to date, “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored” Grande closes the album with a scandalous song about urging a crush to, well, break up his girlfriend because she’s bored. It was a great way to close the album playfully after the emotional investment of a full listen.

Despite the usual superlatives thrown at Grande’s work, it’s not super controversial to say that “thank u, next” is her best album yet. It is full of R&B jams and pop tunes that will surely propel it to the top of the charts. After every song, I was left wanting more and upon finishing the album I felt the same way. Grande knows what she’s doing whenever she releases something new. She’s breaking hearts, opening minds and making people either love her or hate her more than the last time. As revealed on “thank u, next,” she is totally okay with it.

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