Album Review • thank u, next

It’s been less than six months since Ariana Grande dropped her fourth album, sweetener, but she’s already back with it’s follow up: thank u, next. On sweetener, Grande basically said, “when life gives you lemons make lemonade and add some sugar”. That attitude is nowhere to be found here. Recorded in the three months following the death of Mac Miller and her breakup with Pete Davidson, thank u, next is about the trials and tribulations of life and love – and accepting that its all kind of trash at the end of the day. The quick turn around put into question whether the album would be “good”, but this is subjectively her most cohesive and strongest offering to date. On thank u, next, Grande gets more personal than ever and approaches the album (and industry) by her own rules. Let’s jump into each track, ranked imo from good (there are no bad ones on this album) to Godly.

12. make up

Good thing this is the shortest track on the album. It is not in any way bad. It is a bouncy and cute bop, but it just doesn’t match the rest of the album lyrically or sonically.  Tbh it sounds like a sweetener reject that was just thrown on here last minute. I can, though, appreciate it for its quirkiness and absurd lyrics that double as sexual innuendos. Grande loves bringing the camp 24/7.

Standout Lyric: “Highlight of my life, just like that Fenty Beauty kit”

Also, since Grande shouted out Fenty Beauty and they responded very positively, can we please, please, please get an Ari and Riri collab? I think I speak for everyone when I say that is content we deserve and want in 2019.

11. bad idea

Gays, don’t come for me. I know y’all love this record and trust me hennys, I do too. It was probably the track I most listened to in my first 24 hours of playing the album on repeat. The track got old pretty quickly though. Grande has done better dance records before (see: the gay national anthem, “Into You”), and in general, I have heard this kind of production on countless of producer Max Martin’s hits before. So, the record adds nothing unique to Grande’s sound. I do, however, appreciate the experimentation on the record’s bridge, which sees a warped orchestra kick in. I can’t wait to get my life to this when it blares through the club speakers.

Standout Lyrics: I got a bad idea / Forget about it, yeah, forget about him / Yeah, forget about me / I got a bad idea / Yeah, I’mma call you over here to numb the pain”

10. bloodline

Like “bad idea”, I am placing this track lower because the production sounds kind of dated and it is one of the more lyrically shallow songs’s on the album. It is still a banger. The reggae influences remind of “Side to Side”, but it is a better, updated record, which speaks volumes because Side to Side was such a smash as is. I love the record’s intro in which Nonna Grande talks about not getting any satisfaction. In an interview, Grande revealed her nonna was talking about hearing aids, but of course, our corrupted minds think she is talking about other kinds of satisfaction. Our interpretation does work well for this record as it just oozes sex. The main message is Grande wants you for one night and you won’t be meeting her family. Set it straight.

Standout Lyrics: I ain’t lookin for my one true love / Yeah, that ship sailed away”

The interview is below. It is an hour long, but if you are a stan or have taste it is worth it:

9. break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored

Whew, that is a mouthful. I am so happy Grande is teaching the youth how to use commas though. This record makes me feel really sexy – is it wrong saying that? No, I am not trying to home wreck anyone. I just love the “idgaf” Grande serves on this record. I am only placing this bop lower because I do think the lyrics and production are kind of vapid. Also, Grande wouldn’t actually be this messy, so I wouldn’t consider it a personal record. But the overall message is a mood we all need more of in 2019. Just don’t go breaking up relationships, please.

Standout Lyric: That title. Instant curiosity.

Check out the music video too. In the final shot, Grande kisses the girlfriend (who looks an awful lot like her) suggesting Grande is breaking up with her boyfriend to love herself. Iconic.

8. 7 rings

Oh, the controversy. 7 rings was definitely a step in a new direction for Grande. While she has been doing the “pop star ft. rapper” trick since her first single, “The Way”, on this track Grande does away with any features and does the rapping all on her own. I think the verse was both exquisite and questionable. Three rappers did come forward to question whether she stole their flows, but as usual, Grande turned the situation around and collaborations came out of the drama.  I don’t think anyone’s flow was stolen, but I do know that the record samples “My Favorite Things” from the Sound of Music. We love a queen who knows her history and that sample (which helps bridge old and new) is what takes the record an extra step.

Standout Lyrics: “Been through some bad shit, I should be a sad bitch / Who woulda thought it’d turn me into a savage?…. I see it, I like it, I want it, I got it”

Not only does Grande sample “My Favorite Things”, but she slays this Julie Andrews impression:

7. in my head

The track opens with a voicemail from Grande’s close friend, Doug, who warns her that her relationship is distracting her from herself and that she must end it to heal. He says, “I’m two blocks away, I’m coming over.” First, I didn’t know we were still leaving voicemails in 2018. Second, Doug is a down-ass friend and I need more people like that. That voicemail helps ground the record in reality, in a way I hadn’t heard on records before. The record is a smooth R&B jam on which Grande describes how she projected the image she had onto her partner (arguably Pete Davidson) and ignored all the signs it wouldn’t work. Yup, same: both in my own relationships and in me wanting Grande and Davidson to work. Also, her mind is so powerful she literally goes into her head voice as she sings the line “it was all in my head”. Shooketh.

Standout Lyrics:My imagination’s too creative / They see demon, I see angel, angel / Without the halo, wingless angel… Yeah, look at you, boy, I invented you / Your Gucci tennis shoes, runnin from your issues / Cardio good for the heart / I figured we can work it out”

6. imagine

A new classic that does a phenomenal job of opening an album that is also a new classic. The track brings together modern trap hi-hats with traditional, swooping orchestral strings. Over the sparse production, Grande paints a simple picture: a lowkey night at home with baths, bubbly, and boo. Yet, she can only dream of this world because it is unattainable. Grande is too famous and the subject of this song, Mac Miller, is forever gone. Still Grande pleads listeners to imagine with her. The record’s bridge, on which Grande hits ear-shattering whistles raises the lyrical urgency to climatic levels that brought me to tears on first listen. Vocally, this is one of her best performances and serves as a reminder of why she is the voice of this generation.

Standout Lyrics:We gone lay until I’m sleep on your chest / Love how my face fits so good in your neck / Why can’t you imagine a world like that?”

If there are any doubts about her hitting those whistles, here they are live:

5. needy

A simple bell is the only thing that pulsates throughout this moody track. The main focus is Grande and her storytelling. The story is basically the narrative of how millennials and young people date. The politics of texting. Curating a perfect social persona.  Feeling anxious all the time. Being over-apologetic and apologizing for it. I related to it all. While those feelings are natural in a world instant gratification and over-stimulation, it is important to acknowledge them and work ourselves out of them as much as possible. I think we should all learn from self-awareness conveyed on this record.

4. NASA

Grande follows up a track about being needy with a track about needing space. Wow, did I feel that too. The production on this one is ethereal, spacey, and tight – almost as if you really were on a rocket ship into space. However, the highlight is the lyrics. The song runs with NASA title and almost every lyric serves as a metaphor that ties back to the concept. Figuring out the standout lyric was hard cause the whole song is a standout. My one complaint: I wish the record were longer.

Standout Lyrics: “Baby, you know time apart is beneficial / It’s like I’m the universe and you’ll be N-A-S-A / Give you the whole world, I’ma need space / I’ma need space, I’ma I’m neeed / You know I’m a star; space, I’ma need space… / Usually, I would orbit around you / But gravity seems to be the only thing that’s pulling me / You’ll be my rise and shine soon as them stars align”

3. thank u, next

Your grandparents probably know this record, so I won’t say too much because it has all been said. This is the single that catapulted Grande to a new level. Broken from Miller’s death and broken up with Davidson, Grande could have dropped something salty or dropped nothing at all. Instead, she instantly released one of the sweetest breakup anthems of all time. In truly iconic fashion, she released the single minutes before SNL, where Davidson was going to name drop her in his jokes, thus, reclaiming her narrative. The meme-ability and record-breaking numbers the track produced prove just how relatable the message is. We all learn something from our exes and we must be thankful to Grande for reminding us.

Standout Lyrics:I got so much love / Got so much patience / I’ve learned from the pain / I turned out amazing / Say I’ve loved and I’ve lost / But that’s not what I see / Cause look what I found / Ain’t no need for searching”

Luke Skywalker tweeted about the record. Told you your grandparents know it:

2. fake smile

We are taught to just push through whatever is happening in our lives and put on a good face before everyone. That is what Grande’s previous album, sweetener, was. But here, she is quite literally saying fuck that. If she is going through it, especially considering how public her life already is, people are gonna know how she is feeling. We are an emotionally disconnected world in which people suffer in silence, but Grande uses her very public platform to be emotionally honest. In a world full of danceable bops that gloss over how dramatic life can be, I appreciate having a danceable bop that addresses life head on and says it is ok to not be ok. That “OoOoOo” during that chorus on its own is particularly devastating. Get ready to cry on the dancefloor people.

Standout Lyrics:Can somebody walk me to my car? / If I go alone, I’m not gonna make it very / I’m happy for the love and all of the above / If I’m being honest, I done been through way too much / I can’t fake another smile / I can’t fake like I’m alright (OoOoOo)”

During this acceptance speech in December 2018, Grande really let it all out and dropped the fake smile: “I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing.”

1. ghostin

I came into this track thinking it would be about an unreturned text. My body and mind were not preparared. Grande’s thin voice floats over a haunting melody that sample’s Miller’s own “2009”, which was written about her shortly before his passing. On the track, Grande apologizes to Davidson for crying over Miller, who she says visits her in her dreams, and for putting this kind of pressure on their relationship. She promises that she will learn to “ghost” Miller and they will get over this hurdle in their relationship. The fact that they didn’t (having broken up only a month after Miller’s death) makes this record a hard one to listen to through the end. Understandably, this is the only record Grande won’t perform on tour, but I commend her for even releasing it in the first place. RIP Mac.

Standout Lyrics: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… / I know it breaks your heart when I cry again / Intead of ghostin him”

If you are looking for an album that captures just about every emotion and feeling you can experience when falling in and out of love – or even just when navigating life – this is a good one. It is deep, while still being accessible. Anywho, gonna go back to listening for the next year (wow, I am deep in this fandom). thank u for reading. next.

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