Ariana Grande - “thank u, next” Album Review

posted February 11, 2019 in Arts & Entertainment, CommRadio by Jade Campos

“thank u, next” has been one of the most surprising album drops to happen in a few years. While audiences were expecting new music from Ariana soon after she released her fourth album, “Sweetener,” it seemed almost impossible to create another full-length album in only six months.

It is a blunt follow up to “Sweetener,” an album defined by dreamy love songs and empowering hits. In fact, many of the songs on “thank u, next” seem to exist just to negate everything Grande had learned while creating “Sweetener.”

It’s very likely that “thank u, next” wouldn’t have become a reality if it weren’t for the death of her former boyfriend, Mac Miller. It was announced only a month later that she was working on a new album. Each of the songs she teased in the months leading up to the album’s release were about turning her pain into new found self-love and confidence. It was a perfect way to give listeners a sample of the album.

As a whole, “thank u, next” is characterized by off-key electronica instrumentals, voice sampled intros and explicit lyrics. The off-key music gives the album a style very different from anything Ariana Grande has ever made. The voice samples make every track individualized and give context to her state of mind when she was creating them.

The songs on their own are what make this album so strong. They are probably the greatest songs Grande has ever created; the music is airy and tainted with sadness, and the lyrics are very open. The downfall, however, is the way the songs were put together for the track, which is what can really make or break an album.

“imagine” is the opening track and it is a difficult way to draw listeners in. Audiences have already heard the song after its release as a single in December. The music is light and dreamy, which hardly catches someone’s attention.

The track makes her thoughts seem jumbled up and confused. The lyrics jump around from different points in her life. She puts self-empowering tracks next to songs about not being okay, and there is nothing to bridge the two states of minds. The transitions between songs are very shaky.

The most difficult transition to listen to is the jump from the upbeat “make up” to “ghostin,” which is easily the saddest and best track on the album. It barely gives listeners time to appreciate the ghostly instrumentals (which have remarkable similarities to Mac Miller’s “2009”), paired with the heart wrenching lyrics on her relationship with Pete Davidson following the death of Mac Miller.

“7 rings” feels out of place on the album, because it follows “in my head,” a song about recognizing her own toxicity in a relationship. It’s such a strong track, but it almost doesn’t fit because it’s very random that she starts flaunting her wealth and her friends.

The album could have been stronger if she had opened with “NASA,” which is attention grabbing and fun. The track opens with the sample “one small step for woman, one giant leap for womankind.” This would have ushered listeners into the journey to the new lesson in Grande’s life: self-love.

The final track “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored” is a really rough way to end the album. The song “thank u, next” is a much more definitive conclusion. It gives listeners closure; she’s finally moved on from the pain she went through and is learning to love herself. “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored” just seems tacked onto the end and makes the album much less strong than it could have been.

The redeeming quality of the album is the tracks, especially the parallels they draw with “Sweetener.” She references dealing with the cards life has dealt in “ghostin’” as she did in the song “sweetener.” “in my head” is a follow up to “pete davidson” where she admits to creating an image of her partner in her mind that just isn’t reality.

The strongest parallel is “fake smile” and “no tears left to cry.” While fans thought Ariana had learned to handle her demons in “no tears left to cry,” “fake smile” proves that she had merely pushed all that aside instead of actually dealing with it.

While the track listing makes the listening experience difficult at times, it is surprising that Ariana Grande was able to create such an incredible set of songs in six months. Fans continue to believe that Grande is giving them so much, but this album wasn’t for the fans. It was for her to move past the daydreams of “sweetener” and realize her sadness then learn how to grow from it.


Rating: 7/10

Reviewer best tracks: “NASA” and “ghostin’”

Reviewer worst track: “break up with your girlfriend, I’m bored”

 

 

Jade Campos is a freshman majoring in print journalism. To contact her, email jmc7727@psu.edu.