With album cycles, artists can oftentimes find themselves locked into a character until the era is complete and they begin to promote the next one. Ariana Grande skipped the traditional cycle to release her latest album Thank U, Next before the singles from her previous album, Sweetener, even had a chance to drop off the top 40 charts. With Sweetener, Grande solidified her place as a pop powerhouse, but Thank U, Next confirms that no one will forget.
On her fifth studio album, Ariana Grande bares it all. “If I’m being honest, I done been through way too much,” she sings on the track “Fake Smile.” She exposes her insecurities and the pressures that come with being a public figure in a way that translates to someone who is able to keep a more low profile. Grande owns her flaws when it comes to relationships on the track “Needy.” On the other side of that, the song “NASA” uses space terminology to tell her romantic interest to back off a bit. This is probably the weakest on the album but has the potential to grow on you.
Thank U, Next is her most relatable album because it’s her most raw. She lets listeners in on her experiences in recent years with songs “Imagine” and “Ghostin” — tracks that are so blatantly about Mac Miller, it hurts like you personally knew their relationship. Both tracks are some of the most vulnerable that we’ve ever heard from Grande. Grande includes vocal interludes from people in her life throughout the album including the family matriarch, her grandmother, on the track “Bloodline.”
The album #1 hit title track exudes a lightness that is necessary when moving through a difficult period of life. She references real names which helps to bring Grande from this unattainable pop star personality to someone that doesn’t take herself too seriously. Her ability to keep an album chronicling a really difficult part of her life light is a really impressive feat.
The singles are easily the best songs on the album. In “7 Rings,” Grande carries the confidence of a women who unabashedly knows what she wants. Sampling Julie Andrews’ “My Favorite Things” from The Sound Of Music, she lists all of the things that she can buy for herself and her friends.
Grande’s latest single, “Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored” — an ode to infidelity — also includes a sample of *NSYNC’s “It Makes Me Ill.” Although morally questionable, it’s an undeniable bop. The track oozes confidence as she nonchalantly coaxes a man to leave his girlfriend for her. From start to finish, Grande’s confidence on Thank U, Next is contagious. Whether it be encouraging someone to cheat or owning her own neediness in a relationship, Grande isn’t afraid to say what she’s thinking anymore. She knows it’ll be a hit.
The album is more sonically cohesive than Sweetener but because of that, some of the tracks get a little muddy in the middle. However, all of the songs are able to stand on their own lyrically. She wrote and recorded the album with her real life friends which ultimately led to a finish product that sounds like the kind of music Ariana Grande would listen to on her own. In the process of dealing with personal matters, she created an album that allowed her to take her narrative back.
Just like on Sweetener, Grande does an excellent job of balancing between light and heavy moments without sitting in the middle.
Overall, Thank U, Next does exactly what a good pop album is supposed to do. Grande makes a statement on where she is in her life while incorporating so many quotable lyrics that, even if you haven’t heard the album, you’ve still seen her words on Instagram. Yielding several unforgettable singles that are unapologetically feminine, it’s encouraging to see a woman to stand up for their own creative choices in an industry that often punishes them for expression behind the scenes.