Ariana Grande channels past trauma into sense of self-worth on new album


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‘Thank U, Next’ features 12 new tracks from Grande.

Just six months after the release of “Sweetner,” pop sensation Ariana Grande released her fifth studio album “Thank U, Next.” The highly-anticipated album comes within three months of the record-breaking single and music video “thank u, next” that is sitting at almost 300 million views on YouTube. Oh, and not to mention: Grande acquired her first Grammy this past weekend for “Sweetner.”

However, “Thank U, Next” is nothing “Sweetener”; down to the album cover art, “Thank U, Next” is pretty much the antithesis of the Grammy-winning album. “Sweetener” gave us songs like “no tears left to cry” and several tracks over success, moving on and new love– specifically with her now ex-fiance, Pete Davidson.

Grande’s engagement to Davidson has since ended, and her last six months were fraught with grief over the death of ex-boyfriend and acclaimed rapper Mac Miller who passed in September. Additionally, Grande continues to work through the post-traumatic stress disorder she suffered following a suicide bombing at her concert in Manchester, United Kingdom in 2017. Much of “Thank U, Next” takes listeners through Grande’s coping through it all.

“Thank U, Next” opens with “imagine,” introducing the album on a slow-paced note. “needy” follows with a delicate beat and messages that touch on some of Grande’s baggage and its contribution to feeling emotionally scatterbrained and romantically obsessive.

“NASA” picks up the album with a bouncier beat as Grande mentions the necessity of space and “me time” — a definite shift from “needy.” Once “bloodline” starts, the pace picks up for a way-too-catchy banger bolstered by trumpets and snares. It’s evident that Grande is only looking for temporary romantic company.

“fake smile” unveils more of Grande’s pain behind the fame. The rhythm of this song is pretty upbeat, but listeners’ get a sense Grande’s heartbreak in the pre-chorus as she sings: “I can’t fake another smile. I can’t fake like I’m alright.” However, the catchiness of the bridge will surely be on replay in listener’s heads: “If I’m hurt, I ain’t gon’ lie about it. Arms crossed with the attitude, lips pouted. If I’m mad, I ain’t gon’ lie about it. Neck roll with the attitude, yuh.”

The next two tracks, “bad idea” and “make up,” mix the album up with faster, more playful sounds– with “make up” being slightly reminiscent of “Sweetner.” Listeners are brought back down to earth with Grande’s extremely vulnerable “ghostin.”

In the four-and-a-half minute ballad, it appears that Grande mentions the struggle of grieving over Mac Miller while being in another relationship. Listeners can feel Grande’s internal battle through delicate notes in the chorus: “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 not only showcases beautiful musical layering, but also superior, intimate songwriting that breaks listeners’ hearts over and over again.

The album wraps up familiar singles “7 rings” and “thank u, next,” while ending on the latest single and undeniable bop which concurrently released with the album: “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored.”

The final track shows the album’s versatility. While “Thank U, Next,” does address grief and heartbreak in slower and more intimate songs like “ghostin” and “greedy,” the album still lifts you up with messages of self-love and independence in songs like “NASA” and “7 rings.”