The year has just started, and there’s already a top contender for Pop Album of 2019.
With “Thank U, Next,” Ariana Grande accomplished more than just creating a brilliant record. She has created a moment in pop music.
“Thank U, Next” is her second album in six months, and it is a dark, yet exhilarating triumph which looks at the challenges Grande has faced with a fresh and honest prospective.
This album was born in the weeks after the unexpected death of rap legend Mac Miller, at the end of Grande’s relationship with comedian Pete Davidson. Grande and Miller dated for three years and broke up only three months prior to his death. Grande ended her engagement to Davidson in October after being with him for about four months. But looming in the background of both of these events is the PTSD Grande still faces after the 2017 Manchester bombing that occurred at her concert.
As Grande told Zach Sang on his radio show, when things started getting really bad she pushed her management team away, and her friends flew to stay with her in New York City. These friends included artists and producers Victoria Monet, Tayla Parx, Tommy Brown and Michael “Mikey” Foster and Charles “Scootie” Anderson of the band Social House. During this time, the group would record music at Jungle City Studios in New York City while drinking heavily.
The result of these drunken studios sessions was the brilliant “Thank U, Next,” an album which is both brutally honest about Grande’s experiences and full of life and energy.
Grande succeeds at being open about her emotions, broadcasting them in each song on the album. Even though some of the tracks have happy beats, they are still frank about her experience. The result is an album that listeners like myself are able to find relatable.
In songs like “fake smile,” Grande talks about being tired of pretending she is fine. In “ghostin,” she is open about grieving the loss of Mac Miller while watching her relationship with Pete Davidson crumble before her. This song is home to one of the album’s most tragic 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 also love the stark contrasts Grande uses and the range of emotions she displays, moving seamlessly from songs about how she wants to be in love with another person to singing about how she also needs her space.
For example, in the album’s opening songs, “imagine” and “needy,” Grande is craving a relationship with a love she regrets pushing away. She is open about her flaws and regrets allowing them to interfere with her relationship, but admits that now, she just wants to feel needed. These tracks are contrasted by “NASA” and “bloodline,” in which Grande hopes for space away from her lover and sings about the joys of meaningless sex.
In any other album, these tone shifts would be a disastrous move, but because of Ariana’s personality, brilliant lyrics and vocals, they work wonderfully.
After listening to this album over and over again, all I can say is that Ariana Grande is a bad bitch. Not only has she overcome a lot of hardship to create this album, but she also makes music that makes other people feel amazing. If songs like “7 rings,” “bloodline” and “break up with your girlfriend, I’m bored” do not make you want to get dolled up in your finest clothes and hit the town, then you’re not listening to them right.
This album is a true moment in pop music, one that will certainly define Grande’s career. It’s only been out for two weeks and she’s already smashed records. With her Sweetener World Tour starting next month, we have only seen the beginning of what will be an iconic era for Ariana Grande.