Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Ariana Grande has broken free with ‘Thank U, Next’

Finally, an album that is a complete vision of Ariana Grande
Photo by Collegian Staff

There is no way to describe Ariana Grande’s new album, “Thank U, Next” better than how a friend of mine put it: “She snapped!”

Grande has been through the wringer the past two years, and has made it out the other side with a mess of emotions and two hit albums in six months. The Manchester concert bombing, the death of her ex-boyfriend Mac Miller and her whirlwind engagement and very public breakup with Pete Davidson have left Grande feeling a little upside-down, which is reflected in her cover photos for both “Sweetener”and “Thank U, Next.” However, on the “Thank U, Next” cover, though she is still upside-down, she seems like she’s into it.

From all this pain and heartbreak, Grande has gone to the place she feels most safe: the studio. It has been a very emotional time for the singer, but it has also been a time where she has been able to find her own voice in the rigid music industry. When Grande released the two singles for this album, “Thank U, Next” and “7 Rings,” she became the third artist (along with Drake and Mariah Carey) to have two songs debut at number one.She is absolutely blowing up right now, and people are drawn to her more than ever before. In just the past few months she has gained 4.2 million followers on Twitter.  Because of her enormous social media following, Grande no longer has to follow the traditional promotional cycle for female pop artists in the industry. She can do whatever she wants.

Grande told Billboard, “I just want to f***ing talk to my fans and sing and write music and drop it the way these boys do. Why do they get to make records like that and I don’t?” With “Thank U, Next,” Grande has finally broken free from the restrictions that the music industry places on female pop singers to follow the pattern of a single, then an album, then a tour. “Thank U, Next” is 100 percent the vision of Ariana Grande.

The album begins with “Imagine,” which acts as a bridge between dreamier sound of her previous album, “Sweetener,” and what is to come in the rest of this album. This song seems to be inspired by Mac Miller, as she dreams about how happy they could have been if they could’ve just had a regular, private relationship: “Step up, the two of us, nobody knows us.”

Though this song feels a little lighter, it also reflects Grande’s shattered ideas of love, easing the listeners into the pain of the rest of the album: “Why can’t you imagine a world like that? / Imagine a world.”

In “Needy” and “NASA,” Grande doesn’t shy away from admitting her own faults in her relationships. In “Needy,” she sings “Sorry if I’m up and down a lot, sorry that I think I’m not enough and sorry if I say sorry way too much.” She is very candid on this track, and reflects on her flaws. In “NASA,” Grande uses the idea of outer space as a metaphor for asking for space in a relationship: “Give you the whole world, I’ma need space/You know I’m a star; space, I’ma need space.”

Grande gets a little more transparent with her feelings in the song, “Fake Smile.” It is a very honest confession about how she has been feeling with everything that has been going on in her life. It samples the Wendy Rene soul groove “After Laughter” and has a fun hip-hop influence to make it more playful than painful. She is very direct on this track, “I won’t say I’m feeling fine/ after what I’ve been through I can’t lie.”

“Ghostin” and “In My Head” serve as the emotional ballads that ground this passionate, heartfelt album. In “In My Head,” Grande admits that she has created a perfect idea of a man in her mind that could never actually come to fruition: “Yeah look at you, boy I invented you.” Then, in “Ghostin,” Grande lays her darkest feelings out, and she reveals what it was like dealing with Miller’s death while still in a relationship with Davidson. She laments about how difficult it is to be with someone when you are still in love with someone else, presumably referring to Miller, who she has called her “dearest friend.” She sings “though I wish he were here instead/ The one that living in your head/ He just comes to visit me/ When I’m dreaming every now and then.” On this track, she pays tribute to the late Miller by sampling from his song “2009.” This is one of Grande’s most vulnerable songs ever, and it as beautiful as it is emotional: “I know that it breaks your heart when I cry again over him.”

This is an album full of emotion, but of course Grande also included some playful bops, like “Bloodline,” “Bad Idea,” “Makeup,” “7 Rings,” “Break Up with Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored” and the titular song “Thank U, Next.” With these tracks Grande uses her sexual nature to evoke her liberation from everything that has been holding her down in life (past relationships, the music industry, etc.). According to one of the songwriters who worked on the album, Njomza, the studio was full of “boss female energy.”The final track, “Break Up with Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored” is the perfect way to end this emotionally taxing album. It gives off a similar vibe to Britney Spears’ “Get Naked (I Got a Plan).”After all the pain, heartbreak and longing, Grande finishes her album with a flirtatious anthem for everyone who has ever felt that way but has been too afraid to say it.

After years of building a name for herself in the music industry with studio albums overproduced by other artists’ influence, Ariana Grande is finally showing her true colors to the world in “Thank U, Next.” From all the chaos in her life has come her best album yet, and all her fans are eagerly waiting to see what she has in store for the future.

Nicole Bates can be reached at [email protected].

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