Since everyone is losing their minds over the new Ariana Grande album, Thank U, Next, I had to see if it would live up to the hype when it was released this past Friday, Feb. 8. Thank U, Next reflects Grande’s independent attitude after her broken engagement and I see her new album as a passing on of knowledge from Grande to her fans.
Ariana has a knack for killing notes and making it sound like she isn’t even trying. The first track, “imagine,” begins with some seriously slow and steady R&B feels. The lyrics don’t say much — she repeats the word “imagine” for about 80 per cent of the song — and I zoned out about four times while listening. This song lacked depth, lyrically and musically, and was disappointing for a first track. “NASA” talks about needing “space” from a partner and enjoying being alone when you need to be. While it’s kind of a cheezy comparison, and plays more like an annoying repetitive anthem than a song, it’s got a pretty good message that’s important for people to understand when navigating serious relationships. “fake smile” is another R&B-tinged song that starts off with a cool, lo-fi recording of Wendy Rene’s “After Laughter” which abruptly cuts into a slow rhythm using the same beat from Rene’s track. The line, “fuck a fake smile, smile” is hard not to sympathize with. This song is slow but also has mini-rap breakdowns full of pure sass that encourage listeners to be real and open about their feelings with lines like “If I’m hurt I ain’t gon’ lie about it.” Ariana’s vocals are layered and smooth and the different styles of music keep it interesting.
“7 rings” is a bass-heavy track that starts off with a spin on The Sound of Music’s, “My Favourite Things” which then breaks down into an empowered rap about how much money Ariana has and how she can buy herself all of her favourite things. While I’m not exactly into encouraging an overindulgent capitalist culture as a form of empowerment, it is catchy. But there’s been a lot of talk about Ariana ripping off other artists: “7 rings” has been compared to multiple artists’ songs, including Princess Nokia’s “Mine.”
All comparisons aside, it seems as though Ariana is trying to adapt her style to trap music while still holding on to some classic R&B style, so I’m not surprised it sounds familiar. Ariana’s roots still do manage to show through in her soulful voice and honest lyrics, and really, who doesn’t love a good ‘skreet skreet’ now and then?
The album incorporates fun, danceable beats about living free, and reflective songs about navigating relationships while still remaining true to yourself. Even though I don’t share Ariana’s appreciation for ex-lovers (come on, some of them had to be unnecessarily shitty), and I don’t agree that at any point should one try to break a couple up just because they want to “hit it in the mornin,” I think the songs do reflect a changing society in which people are exploring new ideas about relationships.
Maybe encouraging one night stands, frivolous consumption, and partying isn’t what everyone needs to feel empowered, but I do think it’s important to encourage people to be free and true to themselves in whatever way that may be. Ariana’s love for people, equality, and growth shine through in this album, and it’s not hard to appreciate her honesty and authenticity. Thank U, Next is appropriate for the times, for anyone looking to feel empowered and re-focused on themselves, but musically, it’s nothing mind-blowing and will probably get old after a few listens.