Photo courtesy of Variety.com
It’s been more than two weeks since Ariana Grande dropped her latest album and the rest of my playlist hasn’t seen the light of day since. Calling thank u, next good does a disservice to the album. While this certainly isn’t her best album, it’s definitively her second-best.
What makes thank u, next so great is the cohesiveness of the sound and production. Sweetener, while fantastic in its own right, was a mosh-posh of styles. In contrast, thank u, next delves into Grande’s love life and personal life in details, exposing her true feelings about her romantic and professional relationships.
For brevity, let’s clear up my opinions on the pre-released singles. “thank u, next” is phenomenal, “imagine” is decent and “7 rings” slaps. These songs have been out for a while and there’s no need to delve into them further than that.
The best songs on the album are, in order: “bad idea,” “NASA” and “bloodline.” These songs harken back to the Dangerous Woman era with incredible accuracy. “bad idea” comes out strong with sultry lyrics and simple but effective production. Much like her underrated “Bad Decisions,” Grande sings about the desire to follow through on hooking up with a man even though she’ll regret it and she makes it sound like the best decision of her life.
What’s noticeable about this track is the strong rap influence, which is also present on the entire album . Hi-hat drums sound throughout the entire song and the last minute of the song is a hip-hop throwback as she slows down the vocals as the instrumental pushes on. Grande has spoken previously about wanting to emulate the raw-ness of rap and throughout the album we get glimpses of that sentiment.
“NASA” is what I would call a sleeper hit. My recommendation for this song is to listen to it with a high-quality pair of headphones. You’ll miss a lot of the beauty of the track’s production otherwise. The lyrics paint the picture of a woman knowing that she needs her alone time, and her galactic metaphors are eccentric, fun and serious at the same time. While the production is nowhere close to the masterpiece of “breathin’,” it certainly nips at the song’s heels.
“bloodline” opens with a sample of Grande’s grandmother and sets the tone for a rather damning rejection song. “Don’t want you in my bloodline / not trying to make you all mine” – these lyrics tell the story of a woman done with fleeting relationships who just wants a good time. The anthemic trumpets overtop the hip-hop-influenced bass and drums feels like a dismissal of serious feelings for the sake of enjoying the moment.
And then there’s the song we’re all talking about, “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored.” If there were ever a song for the world’s messiest woman, this would be it. However, clever as always, Grande subverts the expectations of the song with her accompanying music video, in which she reveals that the song is a subtle metaphor for leaving a difficult relationship and learning to love yourself. The track itself has the biggest hip-hop influence without a doubt. Grande “yeah, yeah”’s all over this track while keeping her classic pop diva style front and center.
The rest of the album is notable for the references to her relationships and the exposure of how she really feels about them. “in my head” talks about how she mentally built up an image of a certain ex in her mind that he could never fulfill. “make up” talks about how much she loves the fighting because of the reconciliation. “ghostin,” while arguably being the worst track on the album, directly addresses Pete Davidson in all ways but his name, talking about the regret she feels for hurting him by leaving when she realized she wasn’t over Mac Miller.
Grande came out swinging with thank u, next, and the singles’ leaps to #1 on the charts illustrates the album’s quality. The album shows great maturity and the discovery of a unique style refined to perfection. Where Grande goes from here will be a mystery, as she’s shown great versatility and a broad interest in a range of performance styles. Her unpredictability undoubtedly cements her as a force to be reckoned with.
By: Trever McKenzie | Online Editor