Following an absolutely electric release of two singles complete with elaborate music videos to promote her new album, the long-awaited release of Ariana Grande’s “thank u, next” dropped Friday, Feb. 8.
Grande described the album as a “friendship anthem,” revealing a new focus on friendship, appropriate given the tumultuous love life of the past year. With this statement, the album can be boiled down to two words: female empowerment.
After receiving national attention for breaking off her engagement to Pete Davidson and following her ex-boyfriend Mac Miller’s unexpected passing, Grande released “thank u, next,” a saucy look back at her previous relationships. The song was the first from the album to be released and was dropped in early November.
Sharing a name with the album, the song “thank u, next” sums up Grande’s sentiment toward these past relationships. With chorus lyrics like “Wrote some songs about Ricky, now I listen and laugh,” Grande doesn’t leave much to be read between the lines. Rather, in her usual confident and decisive style, she singles out ex-boyfriends (or ex-fiances) by name. Bold.
This song shook the nation soon after its release, and Instagram was flooded with homogenous captions, uncovering just how much the phrase “thank you, next” resonates with the dating culture of millennials and Gen Zers. The song also received a flood of support on Twitter by fans who eagerly supported Grande’s self-assured attitude in the face of tragedy.
Less than a month before the scheduled album release, Grande dropped another teaser song, “7 rings,” which debuted as No. 1 on “Billboard Hot 100,” further confirming public disposition toward the album.
With track titles like “i can be needy” and “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored” (note the lack of capitalization), Grande shows that she doesn’t need to put on an appearance of having it all together, but rather acknowledges that she has faults — such as being too needy — but chooses not to dwell on them. Instead of obsessing over how many minutes to wait to text a guy back, Grande ushers in a new age of upfront speech, throwing grammar to the wind and telling guys exactly how she feels, specifically when she’s bored and wants them to dump their girlfriends.
“‘I’ma need space, I’ma, I’ma need/You know I’m a star; space, I’ma need space/ I’ma need space, I’ma, I’ma need space,” the chart-topping, Grammy-award-winning pop sensation sings poetically in “NASA.”
Combined with the overtly feminist declaration, “This is one small step for woman,/One giant leap for womankind” at the beginning of “NASA,” lines such as this build to an overall message of empowerment and honesty, regarding Grande’s personal relationship experiences, something women of all ages can relate to.
Grande’s tendency to write feminist lyrics is nothing new. Her August 2018 album “Sweetener” featured track titles like “God is a woman” and “successful,” and lyrics like “girl, you too, you are so young,/And beautiful and so successful.”
Both album covers are Grande’s first in color, rather than black and white, reflecting her newfound identity and confidence only a year following a terrorist attack at her 2017 Manchester concert, in which 22 people were killed and over 500 injured.
Although Grande stuck to her typical feminist theme, “thank u, next” focused on moving on from difficult circumstances, whereas “Sweetener” spoke more about love and happiness, reflecting her former period of engagement and relative peace. Significant promotion of her first two singles built up public excitement toward the album, and, as usual, Grande supplies enough genuine heart to live up to the hype.