08/02/2019 11:46 GMT

Ariana Grande's Thank U, Next Is Her True Arrival As A Pop Artist – HuffPost Verdict

On her fifth album, Ari's made it clear she's a force to be reckoned with.


K E Y   P O I N T S

  • Thank U, Next is the fifth album released by US singer Ariana Grande
  • The album is Ariana’s second in the space of six months, having released Sweetener in August 2018
  • Following the release of Sweetener, Ariana had more than her fair share of much-publicised personal troubles, including the death of her ex-boyfriend Mac Miller and the breakdown of her relationship with former fiancé Pete Davidson
  • Thank U, Next was trailed by its chart-topping title track, as well as subsequent number one, 7 Rings
  • For the first time in her career, there are no guest features on this album, and she also co-wrote every single track
  • The majority of the album’s production was done by Tommy Brown, who has worked with Ariana throughout her career but never produced one of her singles until Thank U, Next towards the end of last year

S N A P   V E R D I C T

Let’s just start with the obvious: Thank U, Next is a really, really good album.


In the last two years or so, we’ve watched as Ariana Grande has soared from pop darling to become one of the world’s most sought-after celebrities. Make no mistake, she’s delivered some top-class tunes along the way, but Thank U, Next feels like the first time she’s delivered a whole album worthy of her mega-star status.


Completely out of context, we have to applaud the way she flicks between genres, musical influences and even vocal stylings in a way that feels more cohesive and effortless than she’s managed on past albums. On Thank U, Next, it feels like she’s taken the best parts of her mixed-bag Sweetener album and the elements of Dangerous Woman – an album she’s been critical of in recent years – that felt most authentically Ariana Grande and run with them.


And this is our main praise, Ariana Grande is all over this album. Where on parts of Sweetener it felt like she lost herself in the mix, there’s no mistaking her on Thank U, Next. She’s there in the vocal delivery, the fun lyrics and her trademark “yuh” (which features heavily throughout). You can practically hear her smiling on tracks like NASA, Bloodline and Needy, and it’s great to hear, particularly after everything she’s experienced since she last stepped into the studio.


Which brings us to the obvious. Just as it was impossible to listen to songs like No Tears Left To Cry, Breathin and Get Well Soon without taking into account the tragedy that occurred at her Manchester show a year earlier, much of Thank U, Next is also steeped in the turbulent time Ariana has had of late.


While for most of the first half, the references to overcoming hard times and difficult relationships are more fleeting, things get a lot more personal towards the end, most notably on the slower tracks Ghostin and In My Head.


The former is arguably the most personal song Ariana has ever released, and it’s a painful listen even out of context. But when you realise what she means when she’s singing about “wishing he were here instead”, “[breaking] your heart when I cry again over him” and a former love who “comes to visit me when I’m dreaming every now and then”, it’s doubly heartbreaking.


Meanwhile, on In My Head she sings about coming to terms with reality, after the breakdown of a relationship in which you’ve been mentally putting the other person on a pedestal – a theme previously explored by Katy Perry in her post-divorce song Wide Awake. Ariana doesn’t name names or share specifics, but it’s not difficult to imagine who she’s referring to when she says: “I thought you were the one but it was all in my head.”


Still, it’s important to note that Ariana is keen to move on from her past, and just as Sweetener ended on the hopeful Get Well Soon, her new release concludes on an optimistic note too, with the triple-punch of 7 Rings (detailing a drunken trip to Tiffany’s with her friends), the title track (which sees her reflecting on the lessons her past relationships have taught her) and the playful Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored (we probably don’t need to explain what that one’s about, do we?).


The fact Ariana has been able to channel all of her hardships into her music so sensitively, so honestly and, let’s be honest, so quickly is seriously impressive. But while we’re glad Ariana has an outlet for her grief and sadness, our favourite thing about Thank U, Next is how much fun she obviously had putting it together.


Thank U, Next is an album that Ariana should be proud of. She’s truly hit her stride as an artist, and – as if there was any doubt in the first place – has made it clear she’s a force to be reckoned with in the pop world. While it might be premature to call Thank U, Next an “instant classic”, it’s a fair bet we’ll be seeing it at the top of plenty of ‘Best Of 2019’ lists come December.

S T A N D - O U T   L Y R I C S

I won't say I'm feeling fine after what I been through, I can't lie... fuck a fake smile"Fake Smile
I know that it breaks your heart when I cry again, over him... we'll get through this, we'll get past this, I'm a girl with a whole lot of baggage"Ghostin
My imagination's too creative, they see demon, I see angel"In My Head
Then you realise she's right there, and you're at home like 'damn, she can't compare'"Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I'm Bored

B E S T   T R A C K S





Thank U, Next