I’ve been following Ariana Grande’s career since she was the bright, bubbly redhead Cat Valentine on Nickelodeon’s Victorious. I remember hearing her sing for the first time on the show with her co-star Liz Gillies, and I was blown away by what I heard. Her voice was angelic and unique and she could hit high notes unlike anyone else I’ve ever heard. Then, I discovered that she had a YouTube channel where she would upload videos of herself impersonating other famous singers and singing covers of their songs in her own voice. In 2013, she finally released her first original album Yours, Truly, and the rest of the world became aware of her talent.
Over five years later, she released her highly anticipated album thank u, next, six months after releasing her critically acclaimed fourth album Sweetener. Personally, I have never heard of another artist that released two albums in less than a year, so when she announced thank u, next on Twitter back in November, I was shocked. I knew that Ariana had been going through a lot in her personal life, but the last thing I expected was for her to release a whole new album. But I’m so glad that she did.
Thank u, next, reflects on the tough times Ariana went through, but it also shows how she grew from her hardships, which is what makes it exceptional. The album opens up with imagine, a love ballad about how Ariana’s relationships appeared a lot better on social media when, in actuality, they were deeply troubling. All the while, Ariana was struggling with her emotions, stating in the song needy that “Lately [she has] been on a roller coaster/ Tryna get a hold of [her] emotions” and she admits that “…[She is] a lil’ messed up/ But [she] can hide it when [she is] all dressed up.” Throughout the album, Ariana is extremely open about her struggles, which develops an emotional connection between her and the listener. nasa allows normal everyday people to understand the lack of privacy that comes with being a star, in my head describes a relationship in which Ariana and her partner are in love with imaginary versions of each other, and fake smile reveals how tired Ariana is of hiding her emotions.
Accompanying the emotional, melancholy songs is the more encouraging songs of the album that talks about the advantages Ariana has from growing from her struggles. Most notably, the lead single thank u, next states that Ariana “…learned from the pain/turnt out amazing.” The second single 7 rings is a fun tune that samples “My Favorite Things” from the popular musical The Sound of Music and details how Ariana uses retail therapy and spends time with her friends to feel better. Additionally, Ariana also sings about her relationships in a much more positive manner. Break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored characterizes Ariana’s annoyance that a guy she’s attracted to already has a girlfriend and make up illustrates a passionate relationship with a slow, loving beat.
For me, the song on the album that really hit home for me is ghostin’, which depicts Ariana’s mourning for the death of her ex-boyfriend, rapper Mac Miller, as well as the struggles her and her ex-fiance, comedian Pete Davidson, went through because of it. I could really get a sense of what Ariana was going through with the song’s melancholy melody and heartbreaking lyrics. This was definitely the climax of the album, where all the love and happiness seems to come to an end, but ultimately Ariana grows from her pain.
Thank u, next is an album about self-growth. It is extremely vulnerable yet uplifting at the same time. Ariana uses her songs as a way to cope with her pain, which is extremely inspiring for young people who may be struggling with similar things. One of the major things I got from the album was that creating art, whether it’s music, writing, drawing, etc, can be a great way to not only coping with pain, but to also share your pain so that others can know that they are not alone.
Note: Ariana Grande is scheduled to perform in Boston at the TD Garden on March 20th.