By Jada Butler
Ariana Grande released her highly anticipated album, “thank u, next” on Feb. 8. This is Grande’s first album without featured artists on any of the 12 tracks. Three songs from this album, “7 rings,” “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored,” and “thank u, next” were ranked No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 list during the week of Feb. 23, the first time an act held all three spots since The Beatles. The album itself launched at No. 1 in the Billboard 200 in the same week.
Grande wrote the album with her closest friends, and it reflects her innermost thoughts and feelings on issues like the death of her ex- boyfriend and rapper, Mac Miller, her engagement and break up with SNL comedian Pete Davidson, her relationship with the media, and with herself.
The first track on the album is “imagine,”
which she released as a promotional single on
Dec. 14, 2018. “Imagine” creates a vision of
a world in which Grande and her significant other live without the pressures of fame.
Grande portrays a simple, easy-going love that most people can only imagine. The soft trap beats paired with airy vocals create a feel- good vibe that can be played on repeat without sounding too repetitive.
The second track, “needy,” reveals a side of Grande that most listeners can relate to: sometimes we don’t know what we want, and sometimes we want too much. In “needy,” she opens up about her feelings of anxiety and how it affects her relationships, as heard in the lyrics “lately I’ve been on a rollercoaster / tryna get ahold of my emotions / but all that I know is I need you close.”
Sonically, “needy” takes on a lo-fi (low frequency), chill hip hop vibe throughout a majority of the song. The background vocals, which were done by her best friends Tayla Parx and Victoria Monet, are subtle and match the delicacy of the song.
Next is “NASA,” which describes the need for personal space and self-exploration in a relationship. She says, “it ain’t nothing wrong with saying I need me time.” It’s a reminder not to revolve your entire life around a relationship or to get too comfortable in the routine of being with someone.
“Bloodline,” the fourth track on this album, features a sound bite of Grande’s grandmother, Nona, saying “because I’m trying to do the best I can and they can’t find anything to satisfy me, ugh.” On this track, Grande shows she’s not ready to settle down and is only trying to have fun. Since her breakup with Davidson, Grande has been single. In an interview on the “Zach Sang Show,” Grande said, “It’s closed for renovation… all of me, until further notice.”
Next is “fake smile,” which shows Grande’s new attitude towards the rest of the world. After everything she’s dealt with in the last few years, she’s done pretending and hiding her emotions. The best part of the song is the bridge: “If I’m hard, I ain’t gon’ lie about it / arms crossed with the attitude, lips pouted / If I’m mad I ain’t gon lie about it / neck roll with the attitude.” Given the honest and powerful lyrics, the smooth beats and tight transitions between the verses, it is undeniable that this song issa bop.
The sixth track, “bad idea” may be underwhelming at first with its minimalistic lyrics. But the honesty in the lyrics shows. Grande knows she isn’t ready for another committed relationship and just wants someone who will work as a temporary distraction to keep her from the “bad idea” to go running back to her ex. She knows acting out this bad idea isn’t healthy for her, which is why she says, “I’ma call you over here to numb the pain,” and “forget about it, yeah / forget about him, yeah / forget about me.”
The shortest track on the album, at 2:20, “make up,” is a fun, light hearted song about the thrill of making up after fighting with your significant other. The length of the song perfectly captures the fleetingly passionate moment. Grande says, “It’s mood, it’s vibe…”
The next track is one that Grande told Zach Sang she doesn’t listen to often, and was the hardest to write. This is because of the raw intensity of emotion and truthfulness that comes with it. “Ghostin” talks about the inner struggles Grande faced as she processed Mac Miller’s death and her feelings for him, while engaged to Davidson.
The lines, “You’ve been so understanding, you’ve been so good / And I’m putting you through more than one ever should / And I’m hating myself cause you don’t want to / Admit that it hurts you…” gives us a glimpse of her relationship with Davidson. Grande admits her faults and acknowledges not only her pain, but Davidson’s pain as well. On Twitter, Grande said “ghostin” is about “feeling badly for the person you’re with bc you love somebody else. Feeling badly bc he can’t compare… and how I should be ghosting him.”
“In my head” Grande could also be talking, in part, about Miller. She refers to Miller as “angel” several times on this album, and on social media, so it’s easy to connect the dots on this track. On Twitter, Grande said the song is about “being in love [with] a version of somebody you’ve created in your head. Falling for someone that they’re not.” The lines, “everything you are made you everything you aren’t” could represent Miller’s fame (everything you are) leading to his use of drugs (everything you aren’t).
The last three tracks on this album were all released as promotional singles, and are the only three songs with music videos (so far). Grande wrote track 10, “7 rings,” with help from Parx.
Grande is living her best life in this song. The title “7 rings” comes from the actual seven matching diamond rings Grande bought from Tiffany and shared with her six closest friends. Reminiscent of The Sound of Music’s “My Favorite Things,” Grande turns the classic tune into another successful bop.
The title track “thank u, next” blew charts on its Nov. 3, 2018 release. The song is a touching tribute to her past relationships, the lessons she learned from each of them, and her readiness to move on. In the second verse, Grande sings “Plus I met someone else / we havin better discussions (…) ‘Cause her name is Ari / And I’m so good with that.” This shows she’s taking the time to focus on loving herself.
The last and possibly most controversial track on this album is “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored.” On the first listen, the lyrics seem easy to understand; Grande is after someone else’s boyfriend, who she just met. But the music video is where it gets confusing. It seems that Grande is actually after the girl, not the guy.
During the lines, “You can say I’m hatin’ if you want to / But I only hate on her ‘cause I want you / Say I’m trippin’ if you feel that / But you without me ain’t right,” in the music video, Grande is looking into a mirror, but the girlfriend is on the other side of the glass. A surprise twist at the end of the video also leads to the idea that this song has a double meaning. Since this song comes after “thank u, next” where we know Grande “met someone else” named “Ari,” it’s easy to assume that the last track is a song about wanting to be with herself.
“Thank u, next,” is available to stream on Spotify and retails for $13.99 at Target. I highly recommend giving this album a listen.