Ariana Grande’s latest album, thank u, next, was released on February 8th, 2019. It has been an absolute surprise to her fans, the Arianators, to receive an album so quickly! It has barely been six months since she dropped sweetener. This album is filled with different aspects that hit you all at once and sometimes you don’t know where to look. I tried to take it all in when I (the author, Alberto) listened to the album. In light of that, this is what my initial thoughts on thank u, next are!
Grande’s Road To thank u, next:
Leading up to this album was an emotional rollercoaster for Grande. In June, she got engaged to Pete Davidson after only a few weeks of dating. Grande then released her “sweetener” album two months later on August 18, 2018. A few weeks after the album was released and thriving, tragedy strikes. Her most recent ex-boyfriend and long-term friend, Mac Miller, passed away on September 7, 2018. And following that, the following month, Grande broke things off with Davidson.
Grande was understandably distraught at the death of Mac Miller. Originally, she had understandably announced that she would be taking a break from music. However, this break is short-lived because shortly after she announced that she would instead be working on her next studio album. Weeks later she released the title track for her album, “thank u, next,” on November 8th, 2018.
thank u, next’s Voice Openings
A few of the songs on “thank u, next” begin with a voice message for her listeners. On “NASA,” we hear Shangela Laquifa say,
“This is one small step for a woman, one giant leap for womankind.”
This speaks volumes to who Grande is becoming. For those who do not know Shangel, she is a drag queen who has appeared on RuPaul’s Drag Race. As an active participant and ally in the LGBTQIA+ community, she does not hesitate to show her support by including Shangela on her track. The quote is also expressive towards Grande’s role in trying to push forth women’s empowerment. Women’s empowerment is a recurring theme in Grande’s music, which we can grasp from her previous lead single, “God Is a Woman.” By putting Shangela on the track, it further expresses Grande’s push for women’s empowerment by creating a more inclusive message.
In the song “In My Head,” Grande plays a voice message from her close friend, Doug Middlebrook. He talks about her troubling someone who did not end up being the way she imagined. Doug tells Grande that she can’t fix that person, she can only fix herself. It gives us a timeless piece of advice:
“You can’t choose what happens, but you can choose how you react.”
“…because I’m trying to do the best I can. And they can’t find something to satisfy me, ugh.”
All Arianators know that Grande has a special connection to her grandma. By including her on the album, it makes the album more personal and creates a closer bond with her fans.
thank u, next Wants You To Love Yourself
After going through a whirlwind of events like Grande did, it can really take a toll on your mental health. It might not have been easy for her, but she tried to get through it and remind us that we have to take care of ourselves. Plain and simple: love yourself. She expressed this message several times through the album. Grande reminds us that people can sometimes lose themselves in relationships. Sometimes you forget to separate the “I” from the “we.” “NASA” reminds us to take the space we need and not to let your partner consume your whole life.
She doesn’t shade us for wanting a partner, though. Instead, she reminds us that it feels nice to miss someone. “thank u, next” reminds us not to forget about ourselves. Relationships with others come and go, but your relationship with yourself is permanent. You have to love and take care of yourself. “Fake Smile” reminds us that it’s okay to not be okay. We don’t owe it to anyone to seem fine 24/7 and sometimes we can feel much better just letting the emotions out. In addition to that advice, “7 Rings” is there to tell us that you’ve got to treat yourself. If you want to treat yourself well, then do it. You don’t have to wait for someone to give you a lavish life, you can do it. Most importantly, you can be independent and great!
thank u, next’s Trap Influences
Trap music has been the latest trend and has been influencing a ton of other artists. It has noticeably made a mark in the reggaeton community. For example, J Balvin and Bad Bunny are two that have incorporated trap inspiration into their music. Now we’re seeing Grande do that with her music. Trap music leaves some noticeable imprints on “In My Head,” “Bloodline,” and “Imagine,” especially. Those three songs definitely have some bass-heavy beats. However, they can be masked at times by her tendency to also incorporate dreamy melodies into her songs.
“7 Rings” is a track that includes the most trap music influence. She reigns in her iconic range and sticks to a more narrow range on this song. She also sings more in sync with the beat than she normally does, almost mimicking the trap’s artist flow. This song has such trap-influence that 2 Chainz (someone who is known to rap over many trap beats) jumps on a remix of the song. When he participates in the remix, he is right at home. As a result, the beat fits his type of flow and he seems like a natural fit on the track.
thank u, next’s Song Sampling
Throughout Grande’s album, she takes inspiration from other songs to help shape the final form of her tracks. One of the ways she does this is by sampling other songs that align with her message. On “Fake Smile,” she samples Wendy Rene’s “After Laughter (Comes Tears).” Rene’s song connects well to the meaning behind “Fake Smile.”
Rene sings about holding back her feelings so as not to let others know that she’s hurting. “Fake Smile” is an effort to say that it’s okay to let it out. You don’t have to pretend to be strong. Another track that directs samples is Mac Miller’s “2009” on “Ghostin.” In this song, she talks about her struggle to be with Pete while mourning Mac’s passing. Her sampling Mac makes us realize that his death is taking a toll on her and she is not ready to say goodbye.
Put thank u, next On Repeat
All in all, there was a lot to take in right off the bat with thank u, next. So many different layers discussed just added to its greatness. I’m sure the more we listen to the songs and after a few music videos, we’ll get a better understanding out of thank u, next. If you’re interested in other great album that came out recently, take a look at a Twenty One Pilots article we did!