By James Mercadante
Just when you thought she was at the peak of her artistic success, Ariana Grande showed off even more new hit content. On Friday, Feb. 8, Grande released her highly-anticipated fifth solo-album, “Thank U, Next,” and may have unveiled her best, most cohesive body of work to date.
Back in 2018, Ariana Grande released her album “Sweetener,” was honored as Billboard’s Woman of the Year, got engaged and broke off an engagement— all in the span of five months.
Grande’s relationships were scrutinized through every social media platform. Her response to those speculations was to casually drop a single that reflected and dismissed the value of her past relationships. This song, “Thank U, Next,” became her first No. 1 hit on the Billboard charts.
Her whirlwind year soon gave way to the genesis of the Thank U, Next era. Grande’s preceding album comes across as sugarcoating her suffering and private issues, hence the title “Sweetener;” however, with “Thank U, Next,” Grande positions her narrative in a completely bare and vulnerable state. She lets the world know she “can’t fake another smile” and “can’t fake that she’s alright,” as said in her songs, which is a heavy contrast to her previously having, “no tears left to cry.”
“Thank U, Next” is composed of a plethora of R&B soulful tracks that function as ingredients to the ultimate self-love album and one where Grande is hyper aware of who she is and is not looking for anyone’s approval. Even though she seems to be giving the the middle finger to all those fake smiles, she still stays so damn likable.
The album begins with the song “Imagine,” where she paints a visual fantasy of an ideal relationship, yet it’s so far out of her reach that she’s forced to, in the song, “imagine a world like that.” This track is an appropriate introduction to the album and her voice ascends sheer excellence by gracing the track with whistle tones that we don’t deserve, yet she serves them anyway.
Grande’s voice is one of the most remarkable features about her, but this album accentuates more than just her vocals — it manifests her capacity to formulate authentic and personal lyrics that resonate with her listeners.
“Ghostin” possesses the most honest lyrics in Grande’s whole career. The song is a ballad that professes the guilt she feels for not being completely over her ex while being in another relationship. Fans speculate that the song is about mourning the loss of her ex, Mac Miller, who passed away due to a drug overdose last year.
She tells her lover, “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.” The lyrics in this piece express Grande’s genuine thought process, which evokes emotional responses from her listeners. The ballad ends with an instrumental of violins and string quartets, which can make you feel as if you’re floating; this simulaties a ghost-like feeling, and reminds you again of Miller.
However, Grande presents more fun, catchy songs that can double as petty or witty Instagram captions, such as “Bloodline,” “7 Rings,” “Makeup” and “Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored.” These tracks have heavy pop and R&B elements that have memorable melodies and timeless trap-style beats. Most songs on this album can either break your heart, make you want to dance or leave you feeling empowered.
If you need new music to listen to, this is the album for you. Ariana Grande has proved herself as a true artist with this release and it needs recognition.
“Thank U, Next” is gentle, raw and healing. It’s catchy and entertaining, it’s united and tenacious, but most importantly, it’s undeniably real.