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Album Review: Ariana Grande - thank u, next

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Grande releases her most vulnerable album yet in thank u, next, paving the way for a defiant new era for mainstream pop music.

Album art 'thank u, next' (2019)

Ariana Grande has already proven she won’t be held to the rigid standards of the music industry. On Thursday (7th February) she took to Twitter to claim that the Grammys' producer Ken Ehrlich had untruthfully cited preparation time as her reason for not appearing at the ceremony: “I can pull together a performance overnight [sic] and you know that, Ken. It was when my creativity & self-expression was stifled by you”.

Off the back of this spat, the totem of pop-culture has released her highly-anticipated fifth album thank u, next, which has arrived just six months after last year’s sweetener.

sweetener was the first album to be released after 2017’s Manchester Arena attack and was laced with a piercing sadness. This record felt as if Grande was still reliving some of the album's traumatic context, especially on tracks such as ‘breathin’’ and 'no tears left to cry'. Fast-forward to now, and Thank U, Next feels more progressional in tone. The 12 tracks fluctuate between empowering, emotional highs and more stripped back lows while drawing in the R&B influences from the likes of Beyoncé and Rhianna's recent works. 

Most notably, thank u, next, is Grande’s first album where no other artists are featured. It’s all her, open and on-the-line.  A statement encapsulated in the single 'thank u, next', the second to last track on the album, where Grande reminisces about failed past relationships, concluding that she is focusing on loving herself instead. 

The album kicks off with the dreamy, laid-back melody of single, ‘imagine’, which was released back in December. Grande fantasies about the perfect romance, while she seems simultaneous to demystify the very notion of this sparkly fairytale-like ideal and during the song’s chorus she belts out, "Imagine a world like that", as if to say, "this is an illusion, it’s not real".  

The track is followed by 'needy', where Grande confesses how she feels when she's putting in more than she is getting back in a relationship, resulting in a level of all-too-relatable neediness.

If one thing from the album is clear it’s that Ariana Grande does what she wants. From the lavish, boastful ‘I want it, I got it’ lyrics of '7 rings' to the unfazed attitude of new single ‘break up with your girlfriend, I’m bored’ it’s clear that Ariana means business. After all, she is arguably at the peak of her success, with an endless string of number ones under her belt.  

The emotional climax of the album comes with the heartbreaking track ‘ghostin’. Here, Grande sings about grieving for a past relationship: ‘I know that it breaks your heart when I cry again, over him. I know that it breaks your heart when I cry again, 'stead of ghostin him.’ 

The track also appears to be a reference to her relationships with Pete Davidson, which recently ended, and the late Mac Miller, where she sings of how she wishes ‘he were here instead’

Sonically this album does not seem to know what it is. There are endless contradictions, from the rawer  ‘needy’ and ‘fake smile’ to the untamed feel of ‘7 rings’ and ‘break up with your girlfriend, I’m bored’, but the album doesn't suffer for it inordinately. thank u, next is  Grande at her most unapologetic, and she doesn’t care what you think. 

thank u, next is available now via Republic Records.




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