thank u, next: a brilliant return from Ariana Grande

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Angelo Lopez and Trey McCabe

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Following the release of Nickelodeon star turned pop superpower Ariana Grande’s Sweetener, the newest addition to her collection of bops and bangers, thank u, next, dropped less than six months later.

While most artists find that it would be better to let albums marinate in the charts for at least two years, Ariana much prefers to continuously feed her Arianators (the nickname attributed to her fans), riding the high tide of her constantly mounting success. This bold move did not come as a shocker to her fanbase, as she has been teasing the album, by releasing singles “imagine,” “thank u, next” and “7 rings,” soon after Sweetener dropped in August of 2018.

In the months leading up to the release, fans were anxious about the seemingly rushed nature of the album, collectively thinking that this release would be too soon and that it would most likely not have as much success as her previous albums. However, the Queen of Pop delivered and most would agree that this album will go down in history as one of the finer albums in her discography.

It seems clear that this album is somewhat antithetical to her much brighter album, Sweetener. Though Sweetener was much anticipated due to the pre-released singles “no tears left to cry,” “the light is coming” and “God is a woman” and was released to critical acclaim (even snatching Album of the Year at the Grammy Awards), the outcome of the full album release was rather underwhelming due to its stark tonal shift from her last album, the moody Dangerous Woman. Pharrell Williams’ co-production and writing credits certainly contributed to the album’s happier, preppier nature, possibly swaying the album’s overall demeanor. However, fans and critics still found much to love, and Grande even found herself in the top charts with the track “breathing,” despite its lack of a single release.

In terms of the evolution of Grande’s music, it seems clear that thank u, next is the closer sister album to Dangerous Woman, furthering the latter’s dark production and provocative lyrics. The total ambiance of the two albums have some similarities the Arianators have enjoyed before.

It’s interesting to see that her current music style still retains motifs from Yours Truly, her debut album. The occasional whistle tones, the mumbling of words, the 60’s jazz feel with sudden beat drops that remind us she’s a recent artist, firmly rooting her in the musical landscape of today even as she maintains core parts of her musical identity. The track “fake smile” from Thank U, Next, seems to hearken back to “Daydreamin’”  from Yours Truly, with the intro to the former utilizing the same 60’s-telephone-dialogue-aesthetic as the latter’s outro.

Other highlights include the track “bad idea,” in which Grande leans into the emo-trap style that dominates the airwaves today, with a snappy punk guitar sample and rolling hi-hats complimenting her irreverent style; perfectly accompanying “bad decisions” from Dangerous Woman.

But the one song on the album that fully embodies Grande’s style and M.O. is the album opener “imagine,” fully embracing Ariana’s whistle tones and lovesick lyrics. Her range is immense and in this track she was able to showcase it again.

All in all, the album is fantastic. Grande evolves lyrically, musically, and thematically while staying true to herself. Despite her abidance by current musical trends, she’s able to put her own stamp on them and keep the motifs that created her, creating an album which is nothing short of perfect.

Contact Trey McCabe at [email protected] and contact Anglo Lopez at [email protected].

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