Ariana Grande is one of the biggest stars on the planet and she does what she wants. She recently brought up that she wants to release more frequently, the way rappers drop their albums and mixtapes. Ariana wasn’t playing as she is releasing her second album in six months today. After Sweetener with hit singles ‘No Tears Left To Cry’, ‘God Is A Woman’ and ‘Breathin’ came out in August, she quickly moved on and started breaking streaming records with new tracks ‘Thank U, Next’ and ‘7 Rings’. They are taken from the Thank U, Next album which is out now. A Bit of Pop Music breaks down the record in a track by track review!
Soulful ballad ‘Imagine’ opens the album and was first released back in December. It is smooth, sultry and in the lyrics she honestly wonders why stuff did not work out with (one of) the guys that she thanks on ‘Thank U, Next’. “Imagine a world like that”, she belts out while painting a perfect picture of when they were together. She dazzles with extremely high whistle notes in the outro, which she also perfectly performed live at Jimmy Fallon. We are off to a good start here!
‘Needy’ is easily one of the most stripped back tracks of the album. Ariana sings her lines over a repeating sample while some backing vocals join in around the chorus and eventually strings come along in the outro. The song about admitting to be needy in a relationship is honest and self reflecting, but not one of the most memorable tracks on the album after a couple of listens.
On the Scootie and TBHits produced ‘NASA’ Ariana asks her partner for some more space within their relationship. She does not want to break up, but she hopes with a bit more distance, they will eventually take their relationship to the next level. She uses the Space Administration as a metaphor throughout the lyrics of this pop tune with hiphop beats. The chorus here is one of the more one-dimensional on the record, but the spelling out of N-A-S-A is too catchy to not bop along.
Did Ariana Grande really just let her grandma open a track about friends with benefits? Yeah, she did that, but there is a bit of context here. The song could be interpreted as Ariana comparing a failed relationship to what her grandparents, who found true love at a young age, had. It caused her to want to keep things casual for now, singing: “don’t want you in my bloodline, just wanna have a good time.” The track, produced by Max Martin, has a subtle reggae like rhythm, just like her hit ‘Side To Side’ and some very catchy trumpets over the chorus. If released as a single, this is a sure fire hit, because it is easily one of the more poppy offerings on Thank U, Next.
05. Fake Smile
With ‘Fake Smile’, produced by Happy Perez and Andrew ‘Pop’ Wansel, we stay in a similar rhythm to ‘Bloodline’, be it with a less carefree vibe. On this track, Ariana addresses the tough times she had to go through in recent years with the attack on her concert in Manchester and the death of ex Mac Miller and the horrible stuff people wrote about her after. She is done with pretending she is fine in front of the camera and does not want to show off a fake smile anymore. That, however, does not stop her from throwing in a little attitude in the brilliant middle-eight. A tune and a half!
06. Bad Idea
‘Bad Idea’ is one of the most instantly catchy offerings on Thank U, Next. That chorus is completely irresistible and the production swings with a high paced rhythm. Just when you think the song came to end, out of nowhere strings pop up to give us an extended outro. It is an out of the box production choice and gives the track more body. I am not sure if it would work as well as a single, but definitely one of the stronger album tracks to be found here!
07. Make Up
‘Make Up’ is a short but sweet little tune on which she uses the term in both meanings, saying she wants to fight with her partner only so they can make up later, while also wanting him to ruin her make up. Ok girl, smart play on words here! The only 2 minutes and 20 seconds long tune does not leave much of an impression in comparison to the rest of the record, but it sure is cute as an interlude type of thing.
Now ‘Ghostin’ might be the single most heartbreaking song Ariana has ever put her name to. Over an all the way stripped back instrumental, she sings about being with someone while her heart actually belongs to someone else. She realizes that she should ghost the guy that still makes her cry and wants to stop hurting the person she is with now while he is being patient with her. That is easier said than done though! People on Twitter were quick to pick up on the fact that the Max Martin and ILYA produced track, which was co-written with Victoria Monet, has a strong resemblance to Mac Miller’s song ‘2009’. I dare you not to feel all the feels while listening, as Ariana also delivers one of the strongest vocal performances of her career.
09. In My Head
‘In My Head’ opens with a voice memo from her friend Doug Middlebrook who points out that she can’t fix other people, just herself. The song is all about how you build up another person in your head and fall in love with a version of them that is not realistic. This trap pop track is easy to sleep on after the first few listens as it does not stand out immediately in terms of production or melody, but the chorus does unfold its beauty a bit more with every spin.
10. 7 Rings
Second official single ‘7 Rings’ brilliantly samples the melody of Sound of Music classic ‘My Favorite Things’. It is just so damn catchy! Ariana brags about her luxurious life and her big fat bank account and we are living! Her cocky delivery is gold and she shows in the middle-eight that she can acutally rap too. ‘7 Rings’ is probably her most hiphop inspired solo track and she rocks it. Streaming records don’t lie!
11. Thank U, Next
Ariana kicked off the whole new era with the already iconic ‘Thank U, Next’. On first listen I was not as impressed as I was when first hearing the Sweetener singles, but it grew on me (and everyone else around me), becoming this big pop culture moment (judging by the streaming records she broke). The video referencing famous rom-coms was brilliantly executed and I think we can already say that ‘Thank U, Next’ became a proper classic.
12. Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored
For starters, this is easily the most iconic song title I have seen in a good while! the track itself doesn’t disappoint either. Over a light trap beat, produced by Max Martin & ILYA, Ariana tells this guy that she actually hasn’t met yet, that he should break up with his girlfriend and come over to her. It is probably one of the more sexual songs she has put her name to and she pulls it off with confidence. ‘Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored’ is the most memorable and single worthy tune on the album and wait for the title to pop up in a lot of social media profiles… She also dropped a video where she appears to try and steal actor Charles Melton from his girlfriend…
So all of this taken into consideration, is Thank U, Next Ariana Grande’s best album to date? I would say it is! It is a clear step up from Sweetener. There is next to no filler material to be found, the album is a perfectly cohesive body of work and there is plenty of material to choose next hit singles from. Ariana dared to be personal and think out of the box both in sound and releasing strategy and it paid off!