Photo courtesy of Lindsay Neilson / Flickr
Story by Stacey White / Contributing Writer
Grammy-nominated pop star Ariana Grande released her fifth studio album, “thank u, next,” on Friday, letting everyone in on her failed relationships and her growing confidence.
Just a mere six months ago, Grande released her fourth studio album “Sweetener.” The album itself was a dedication to the victims of the Manchester attack that took place after Grande’s Dangerous Woman Tour in 2017. “Sweetener” displays hopefulness and love and is a good reflection of Grande’s life at the time. The album includes a short track, titled “Pete Davidson,” the name of Grande’s then fiancé, and it is just as romantic as you think.
While Grande is known for her high ponytail and wide vocal range, she hardly displays the latter in “thank u, next.” She begins the album with “imagine,” a slow song that questions the likelihood of a happy relationship in a different world. Grande doesn’t let the opening track end without throwing a few whistle tones in as the track finishes, leaving fans breathless and begging for more.
The album progresses with songs like “ needy” and “NASA.” The two songs have more differences than one could count, but simply put, “needy” continues the feelings “imagine” left lingering. The track displays Grande’s ability to admit she’s flawed and hopes that her love will overpower the amount of attention she needs to feel loved. Grande uses “NASA” to not only display her love for space but to ask her partner for a little bit of space. The upbeat song is fun, and to get it started, Grande features Drag Race star Shangela at the song’s intro, saying, “One small step for woman, one giant leap for womankind.”
Grande’s grandmother, “Nonna,” makes an appearance on “bloodline.” Nonna begins the seductive song stating, “Because I’m trying to do the best I can, and I can’t find something to satisfy me.”
After Grande giggles at her grandmother’s bold statement, the song begins and she sings about wanting to have a good time with her partner, but not wanting him in her family’s bloodline.
“Fake Smile” is the next song on “thank u, next,” and it features a sample of “After Laughter Comes Tears” by Wendy Rene. Grande uses this song to discuss the troubles she faces because of her fame but also sings about how grateful she is to be able to experience life as a pop star. Grande displays her phenomenal vocals on this song as she declares she can’t and won’t fake smile through the pain anymore.
“Bad idea” and “make up” bring things back uptempo, and the two are definitely perfect for dancing in your bedroom when you need a confidence boost or just enjoying a night out with friends.
Grande slows things down again with “ghostin,” a tear-jerking ballad that alludes to her relationships with ex-fiancé Pete Davidson and late rapper Mac Miller. The song’s lyrics include, “I know that it breaks your heart when I cry again over him,” which has left listeners to interpret the song as an apology to Davidson for her actions when Miller passed away. “Ghostin” is easily a fan favorite with Grande’s vulnerability on display, accompanied by light strings and breathy vocals.
Doug Middlebrook, Grande’s long-time friend, begins “in my head” in an apparent voicemail telling Grande that he believes she is in love with a version of a person she has created in her head, and no matter how hard she tries, she cannot change that person. She can only change herself.
As the song continues, Grande gives examples of what she sees in her partner compared to what those around her see, such as her friends seeing Cain while she sees Abel. Grande recognizes that her friends, like Middlebrook, are right, and she has created a version of her lover in her head. The lyrics that best demonstrate Grande’s realization are, “Look at you, boy, I invented you. Gucci tennis shoes running from your issues.”
The previously released “7 rings” and the title track “thank u, next” both pick things up and display Grande’s growth in confidence in herself and her music. The two songs were Grande’s first and second debut at the top of the of the Billboard Hot 100, which makes their back-to-back placement intriguing and admirable.
“Break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored” is the album’s closing track and it’s just as fun as the two before it. Grande samples NSYNC’s “It Makes Me Ill” as she tries to convince the person she’s interested in to leave their partner. It is hard to believe anyone could resist the urge to break up with their girlfriend with Grande singing over the seductive beat in a low persuasive voice while never missing a note.
Overall, “thank u, next” demonstrates the growth Ariana Grande has experienced in the last five months, both musically and emotionally. Grande uses her voice and catchy beats to not only uplift herself but anyone willing to listen. The emotions and lack thereof in some songs has crafted Grande’s most memorable body of work to date and sets a new standard for pop albums.
Ariana Grande is bringing the Sweetener World Tour to Nashville on June 7, 2019, at Bridgestone Arena, alongside Normani and Social House. More information can be found here.
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