If you’ve been on the internet at least once in 2018, you’d know that Ariana Grande had an eventful year.
She released an incredible album, started dating, got engaged to and then broke up with Pete Davidson, and mourned the loss of her ex Mac Miller after his tragic passing. And not to mention, she’s fighting a constant battle with anxiety and depression, which she’s been vocal about in interviews as of late and in songs on “Sweetener.” She said it stems from the Manchester attack where a bomb went off and killed 22 concert goers, among other factors.
Considering the trials and tribulations a star of her stature has to go through on a daily basis, you’d think Grande would’ve had enough. She would’ve taken some serious time off, gone into hiding and sheltered herself from the public scrutiny that must permeate her phone every time she checks social media.
But no, instead she has risen from the ashes yet again and come out with a fresh new track that speaks volumes to the woman she is today and the woman — and ex-boyfriends — she’s leaving behind.
The song, titled “thank u, next,” is catchy and ethereal. Its sound is similar to the pop ballads of her latest album, "Sweetener," and the subject is a heartfelt ode to the boys who are no longer a part of Grande’s life and the list of lessons she’ll take with her from each relationship. It’s somewhat of a more upbeat continuation of “Better Off.”
I am a fan of Grande and her sarcastic, straightforward personality. But when I first saw the title of the new song, I was immediately worried, and the fact that she released it 30 minutes before Saturday Night Live was about to air Saturday night didn’t ease my apprehension. Please don’t make this a diss track for Pete Davidson, I thought. We get it. You’ve moved on.
But to my pleasant surprise, my ears were met with a refined yet straightforward break-up song, one that reflects on the past but is hopeful for the future. She name drops some of her most prominent ex-boyfriends, like rapper Big Sean and of course Davidson, who she says she appreciates after all is said and done.
“One taught me love, one taught me patience and one taught me pain, now I’m so amazing,” she sings in a confident coo. The chorus repeats the title over and over, like a sass-filled send off to her former lovers.
In the best verses of the song, Grande tells a love story that’s more dignified than any other. She says she’s “met someone else” referring to the stronger, smarter version of herself she’s recently pulled out from under all the pain and heartache. She goes on to say that she’s taught herself how to live, love and feel again, all the things she’s alluding to not being able to have learned without the help of her exes.
Grande’s status as a mega superstar has given her the freedom to release timely singles like this right after she makes them. The stark relevancy of the lyrics make for a more enjoyable listen, as she’s turned yesterday's headlines into today's bop.
Upbeat breakup ballads have always had a special place in popular music. From Taylor Swift's “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” to Kelly Clarkson's “Since U Been Gone” to P!nk's “U + Ur Hand,” there not only seems to be a pattern with the shortening of “you” but also a definitive stance for women to take back their dignity after a breakup.
And in Grande’s “thank u, next,” she shows she believes wholeheartedly in the power of self-love, growth and optimism.
She’s moving on, and never giving up.