Ariana Grande has had an unenviable tumultuous couple of years. Her concert in Manchester was the site of a tragic terrorist attack, her ex-boyfriend Mac Miller died unexpectedly, and her engagement with comedian Pete Davidson ended after months of endless media scrutiny. In November, Grande was able to successfully channel her brushes with tragedy and highly publicized personal life into one of the catchiest pop hits in recent memory: the inescapable “thank u, next.” The song came as a surprise to both the general public and her loyal fan base, who expected a longer break from new material, as her previous album “Sweetener” had only been released a few months prior.
That song was merely the beginning of a new era for Grande. After a few more single releases, the singer dropped “thank u, next” in its entirety in mid-February. The album has broken numerous streaming records and marks an unprecedented level of success for Grande. The success of “thank u, next” isn’t entirely surprising, though, because the album could not have come at a better time. The combination of “Sweetener” and the singer’s romantic escapades has catapulted Grande to the center of the public’s attention, and it’s difficult to think of a more frequently discussed pop star in 2019.
The most significant factor leading to the success of “thank u, next,” however, is simple: it’s a truly excellent pop album. It features several songs that are among the best in Grande’s entire catalogue, and features the singer’s most personal lyrics yet. The trap influences in the album’s production will certainly attract hip-hop fans, while Grande’s stellar vocals will continue to appeal to her immediate fanbase and the general public.
“thank u, next” is somehow both excitingly eclectic and satisfyingly coherent. Upbeat highlights “NASA” and “bloodline” complement slower songs like “needy” and “ghostin.” Grande’s lyrics cover a wide range of emotions, including mourning, insecurity, and lust. Yet even the heavily criticized materialism of “7 rings” feels like it belongs on the album, because the variety of the songs’ moods and topics all serve one artistic vision: to convey the breadth of emotions that surround a breakup. “fake smile” articulates the facade of maintaining one’s composure following a heartbreak, while “needy” explores the insecurity onset by the end of a relationship. While tracks like “break up with your boyfriend, i’m bored” and “7 rings” may make Grande seem immoral or selfish when isolated, they are much more forgivable in the greater context of the album: she’s attempting, through admittedly questionable methods, to distract herself from post-breakup heartache. The album isn’t spotless, as songs like “make up” and “in my head” are pretty forgettable, and many of the good songs are disappointingly brief. Overall, “thank u, next” is a nearly perfect album for anyone who’s ever been through a breakup, and still has lots to offer to anybody who wants to dance, sing, or cry.