Thank U, Next: Ariana’s Triumph Over Trauma

Six months after number one album Sweetener topped the charts, Ariana Grande is back with her new album ‘thank u, next’. Created as an outlet for the avalanche of public exposure she had experienced for months—notably her short-lived engagement with comedian Pete Davidson and the tragic passing of rapper ex-boyfriend Mac Miller—Ariana shows her fans and the rest of the world that she is not one to hide away from her problems.

Ariana expresses her emotions in a range of tempos—from hard-hitting ballads to fast-paced anthems. Some of her deepest thoughts are shared in the songs ‘imagine', ‘needy', and ‘ghostin’, in which she sings about unattainable love and insecurities. ‘imagine’—more so than any other song on the album—showcases Grande’s vocal range as she pours herself into belters and reminds listeners of her skill in producing whistle notes, a talent which few artists can claim. In ‘needy’, Ariana Grande exposes herself to the reality of her vulnerabilities and insecurities. She sings, “I admit that I’m a lil’ messed up… I’m obsessive and I love too hard”, revealing a layer of raw truth about herself which adds to the emotional turmoil laced throughout the album. In ‘needy’, Ariana has a mirror moment of reflection and shares herself with listeners. Grande pours out her feelings about loving someone whilst being in a relationship with someone else in ‘ghostin’, a song which she was initially reluctant to release. Her apologetic woes for her partner slowly build up to a gentle climax of violins and harmonies that play on to the end of the song.

‘thank u, next' is closely centred around Grande's personal experiences with relationships, from recalling the elation that stems from reconciling after a fight with a partner (makeup), to the pleasure in a no strings attached sexual relationship (bloodline). We can see the contrast between the loved-up and elated feelings that Grande shared with us on previous album Sweetener--in which Grande was, at the time, engaged to comedian Pete Davidson--to the reflective and independent stance she has developed as a result of her public trauma. Prior to the release of this album, Grande stated that she is abstaining from romantic relationships for 2019, tweeting (after a news outlet questioned who she is currently dating): “spoiler for the rest of this year / probably my life: it’s no one.”

Popular for her fast-paced anthems, Ariana ties her album together with sounds that blend pop, R&B and trap beats. She shares her struggles with fame on ‘fake smile’, referring to the stress of overt publicity and the “shocking” headlines she’s seen about herself in the media. ‘bad idea’ pairs simple guitar chords with a strong trap base as Ariana suggests taking a break from a relationship and forgetting everything. The songs on this album tie in to create a cohesive and consistent sound from the start with ‘imagine’ to the hit single ‘break up with your girlfriend, im bored’.

With ‘thank u, next’, Ariana continues to provide listeners with a streak of club and radio hits as well as tracks which showcase her vocal abilities. At a time it was assumed she would take a break from the media and music, Grande pushes through the negativity and expresses her gratitude, love, sorrow and regret.