Grande’s ‘Thank U, Next’ draws on public struggles

Photo courtesy of Republic

Ariana Grande is back at it again with the pop anthems in her latest album “Thank U, Next.” The more notable songs include “7 Rings” and the title track “Thank U, Next,” both of which came out as singles before the album was released earlier this month. One of the more popular tracks on the album, the latter single remained in the Billboard Top 100 for fourteen weeks in a row. 

Grande has been busy in the past year, releasing back to back albums with a little over six months in between. Of course, this pair of albums has led to audiences comparing the two of them. Both contain stellar vocal performances by Grande, containing signature whistle tones and displays of the singer’s outstanding vocal range.

“Sweetener” was a long anticipated album, with its inception in July 2016 well separated from its release in its final form August on 17, 2018. “Thank U, Next,” in contrast, was written and produced in two months at the end of 2018 and released February 8th. 

Ariana Grande has not had such a quick turnaround time since her release of “My Everything” which featured hits like “Love Me Harder” and “Bang Bang.” 

While many would certainly consider this album a masterpiece due to its popularity and relative quality, it feels more like an informal journal entry than a piece of art from a revered artist. 

This impression may be what Grande desired all along — lyrics describing her romantic fantasies, her need for emotional reparation, and even the inclusion of a short audio clip from close friend Doug Middlebrook bring listeners back to the reality of Grande’s tumultuous public life. 

Much of the listener’s understanding of the songs’ meanings revolves around intimate details of her public life, especially as she openly references her exes and experiences as a pop culture figure. 

The raw emotional energy that Grande channels into her vocals is unmatched, allowing listeners to follow her moods and tragedies right along with her. 

“Sweetener” featured a variety of other pop artists such as Pharrell Williams, Nicki Minaj and Missy Elliot, while “Thank U, Next” is a solo project. The album serves as a much deserved break from collaboration after such an eventful time in Ariana’s life. 

Songs like “Imagine,” “NASA” and “Ghostin” are reflections on love, loss, heartbreak and an ever changing and intense world. The ambiguous but thoughtful lyrics allow listeners to be able to relate to each song in a different way and remind one of a series of introspective letters addressed to an omnipresent “you.” 

“Thank U, Next” is an easy listen all the way through, each song gently transitioning to the next, except for the more upbeat songs towards the end of the setlist. Still, because there are plenty of songs like “7 Rings” to fill the listeners’ souls with exciting dance beats, the jolting transition from slow to upbeat is barely noticable. Every song, from start to finish, can be described as catchy and great for dancing, even the more introspective and emotional tunes.

No matter how much the album is loved by adoring fans, there are several issues that musicians may notice about the work as a whole. Plenty of the beats in the songs are too familiar, her opening song “Imagine” sounding too much like “Dangerous Woman” to be considered completely original. 

Grande has also been accused online of plagiarizing melodies from other artists, though no formal claims have yet been made. Additionally, the lyrical tone of the album, though admirable, is inconsistent. The listener has trouble adjusting when Grande is emotional in one song and a bad-ass in another. This certainly does not stop Ariana Grande from trying, but it makes the listener’s experience a little bit less enjoyable than it could be. 

The last issue would be monotony, something plaguing pop artists nowadays. All of the songs are simple, and as loyal Arianators know, she is able to write and produce better varieties of songs that still mesh lyrically and tonally. 

At the end of the album, Grande leaves her audience wondering: does the final song have a hidden meaning? Perhaps Ariana is ready to move on from her dating troubles and put herself out there again, or, as some online may argue, her final track “Break  With Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored” is more about self love than it is about hooking up. 

Either way, listeners are left wondering what projects are upcoming for Ariana Grande after sharing such a tumultuous experience with the singer. There may be nothing left to say to the artist but “Thank U, Next.”