Get ready to say a huge “Hello” to the return of pop domination.
The first half of 2018 was filled with SoundCloud hip–hop bangers and the occasional Cardi B feature at the top of the charts. It wasn’t until April of 2018 when the 25–year–old starlet, Ariana Grande, would return to the scene with the feel good bop, “no tears left to cry,” the first single off her 4th studio album Sweetener.
Fans were ecstatic for this new era since the end of her Dangerous Woman tour. Back in May of 2017, Grande faced a terrorist attack at her Manchester, England show, which left 22 dead. Sweetener was Grande’s way of turning sadness into art. She successfully and beautifully achieved this when the album was released in August of 2018. Surprisingly, this album brought in mixed reviews, as some fans doubted Grande’s new pop and hip-hop sound while criticising her collaboration with well–known producer Pharrell Williams on the album. However, some believed her album was overshadowed by her break up with the late rapper Mac Miller in May of 2018 and her sudden engagement to SNL comedian Pete Davidson in June of that same year, who earned his own personal track on the album.
Grande and Davidson’s whirlwind romance dwindled down after Miller’s tragic suicide in September. This had a major impact on Grande and affected her then present relationship with Davidson as they eventually called off the engagement in October. Nothing is confirmed yet as to why the relationship ended, but fans suspect thank u, next is exactly what Grande needed not only to bring closure to this rollercoaster of year she’s had, but also to help her transition into a new stage of life.
thank u, next immediately sets a tone of growth, self–love and cemented friendships solely based on its cover art. It depicts Grande laying upside down as her iconic ponytail drapes on the floor with her arms crossed with the words “thank you, next” written across her neck. Grande admits that this is her favorite cover to date when she tweeted, “This is my fav[orite] album cover… [The cover is] made with tru[e], deep friendship and love. Just like this music.” Grande emphasizes the importance of friendship and love throughout her album after a year of sorrow and heartbreak. Despite strolling through life not knowing where anything is headed, this album is full of new beginnings for Grande.
The development of Ariana Grande’s 5th studio album started almost immediately since the release of Sweetener; however she stated the album would be released towards the end of 2018. The sudden end to her engagement brought a setback to the release of the album and took a toll on her mental health. Weeks after the called-off engagement, Grande began dropping lyrics to “thank u, next,” her first single off the album of the same name. She then dropped the song on Nov. 3, causing an uproar among fans streaming and downloading the song the second Grande tweeted the link, earning her first, and long overdue, number one hit on the Billboard Hot 100.
“thank u, next” brings a heavy pop tune and perfectly encapsulates Grande’s message of independence and self love without her four ex-boyfriends, mentioned in the first verse. This song is written brilliantly as she thanks, rather than targeting, the men who caused her heartbreak for making her into the person she is today. This lead single sets the tone for her album about growth and self reassurance.
thank u, next opens with “imagine,” a non-single released in December. Essentially, the song describes Grande’s depiction of a perfect world spent with a guy she is infatuated with. The use of a simple trap beat behind Grande’s powerful vocals while transitioning into a piano instrumental with the use of a small orchestra supported with Grande’s Mariah Carey-inspired whistle tones creates a romantic blend of sound. In fact, Grande continued to prove her talent while performing these whistle tones live on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, leaving viewers speechless.
In January of this year, Ariana Grande dropped her official second single “7 rings” along with a preorder and release date to her new album thank u, next slated for Feb. 8. This song samples the 1965 classic The Sound of Music’s original song “My Favorite Things” performed by Julie Andrews. Grande managed to transform a 1965 classic into a powerhouse anthem for girl squads, making her listeners feel strong, independent, confident and capable of wanting and buying everything they lay their eyes upon. This song transforms listeners into their own self–made millionaire lifestyle with nothing else to do but treat themselves and their friends to expensive hair extensions, champagne, lavish parties and Tiffany & Co. diamond friendship rings, which is exactly what Grande did with her six best friends. The track begins with an homage to the The Sound of Music while bursting into a trap beat supported by Grande’s rap style, encapsulating Hollywood’s recent transition within the decade from bubblegum pop to catchy hip-hop tracks. There’s no needed explanation as to why this song scored Grande her second number one song on the charts.
Noticeable standouts from this album include, “needy,” “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored” and “ghostin.” Not being able to keep a secret, Grande teased a snippet of “needy” to her 60 million Twitter followers last year, leaving fans antsy to decode the lyrics and anticipating for the album’s official release. This song is supported with a simple beat, Grande’s delicate main and background harmonies, heavy lyrics and the use of beautifully simplistic violin strings incorporated into the last 20 seconds of the three minute track.
Furthermore, “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored,” Grande’s latest single, preaches the ironic message of having feelings for a taken man, but knowing that the girl he’s with will never compare to the strength and fierceness of Grande. This song almost goes against the message of confidence and independence that thank u, next preaches, but Grande tweeted a response to a fan’s question as to why she decided to put the song on the album: “I think it’s funny. I liked the idea of ending a more honest [and] vulnerable project with… a punchline.”
Lastly, there is always that one song on every album that is capable of tugging the heartstrings of the artist and the listener, and “ghostin” is that song. The introduction of a mellow, distorted tone alongside Grande’s powerfully feminine vocals sets the mood for this four minute emotional rollercoaster. As Grande states herself with the lyric “We’ll get through this, we’ll get past this, I’m a girl with a whole lotta baggage, but I love you,” this song alludes to her former relationship with rapper Mac Miller. Fans have also found a connection to this song with the lyrical hint “He just comes to visit me when I’m dreaming every now and then,” to Miller’s 2016 song “Cinderella,” which is supposedly about Grande with the lyric “You in my dreams, that’s why I sleep all the time.” This is a track that will definitely be on every girl’s go-to sad songs playlist.
Ariana Grande continues to outdo herself with every song she releases. There’s no denying her powerful vocals alongside her new blend of pop and hip-hop musical style revolutionize Grande into an influential and impactful artist entering this new decade of music. thank u, next is leading Grande in a new direction despite admitting to her Twitter followers that she has no idea what the future holds for her. Grande perfectly produced thank u, next in a way to capture the emotions associated with her blind step into a new life filled with self-love, confidence, independence, strong friendships and lots of hair extensions.