Album Review: Ariana Grande – thank u, next

By Andrew Breazeale, Staff Writer
[Republic; 2019]
Rating: 8.5/10

Key tracks: “NASA”, “bad idea”, “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored”

Pop-princess Ariana Grande makes her triumphant return with her fifth studio album, thank u, next. Grande released this album just six months after her fourth album Sweetener, an uncommon feat in the pop industry. But in those past six months, the 25-year-old pop icon experienced more heartbreak, backlash and success than she ever did. Thank u, next not only embodies these experiences but also reveals her inner thoughts and feelings in a masterful, cohesive way, while also bringing authenticity and sincerity to her image.

Read more: ACRN’s Top 25 Albums of 2018

With the death of her former boyfriend Mac Miller, her breakup with her ex-fiance Pete Davidson and the release of Sweetener, Grande has faced many challenges and changes in the past six months. What defines her career is not what happened to her, but rather how she comes back from it. Grande channels her emotions and sentiments from the past few months on this album, crafting a story that exposes the listener to the reality of her life and mind. The end result can be described as nothing less than a flawless mix of trap, pop, rap, reggae and much more to give the album a unique sound that feels oddly familiar.

Along with her usual pop, Grande predominantly incorporates trap throughout the album, most prominent in the hardcore, self-important song “bad idea” and the powerful, almost pretentious “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored”. Each of these tracks shows off her range and versatility, mixing hard beats with shameless lyrics about love and lust. While trap may be a somewhat unexplored genre for Grande, her glorious voice shines on each track, perfectly complementing the genre and proving once again that, yes, this girl can sing!

Grande is more open on this album than ever before, specifically on “ghostin”, a hauntingly elegant ballad about her exes Mac Miller and Pete Davidson. She confesses her regret for losing Pete over Mac Miller’s death while revealing previously unknown details about her relationship with Davidson. Her feelings of loss and heartbreak shine through on “needy”, an emotional display of truth about her need for attention and love after all that she’s experienced. Grande is unapologetic but genuine all the same, admitting she’s “a lil’ messed up / But I can hide it when I’m all dressed up.” This album is the most cohesive and personal of her discography by far, bringing an old sound back with a new freshness. Title track “thank u, next”, a pop anthem about learning lessons from your exes and using that to better oneself, is the best example of this. Released as the first single for the album, “thank u, next” puts a positive spin on heartbreak, something everyone struggles with and therefore can relate to. This track, as well as the album as a whole, not only provides Grande with healing and release but allows every listener to feel the deepest sense of comfort as they tune in to this impeccably crafted scrapbook of love.

Listen here:

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