After the Grammy-winning success of Ariana Grande’s “Sweetener,” fans were left waiting on the edges of their seats to see what the pint-sized pop star would do next. They shouldn’t be disappointed.
Her fifth studio album “thank u, next,” released six months post-”Sweetener,” is a pedal-to-the-metal move after a whirlwind of a year, that included her split from fiance Pete Davidson and the death of rapper and longtime on-and-off boyfriend Mac Miller.
Grande outlines both the highs and the lows of her new-found singleness in this album — from the confident “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored” to the somber “ghostin,” which is rumored to feature a sample from Mac Miller’s “2009.”
The song “in my head” is quintessential Grande. Though the beginning was a risk (a voicemail from best friend Doug Middlebrook takes up the first 20 seconds of the track), the song contains everything die-hard fans were hoping for from this album: a heavy bass line, her famous falsettos and possible jabs at Davidson.
“Here’s the thing. You’re in love with a version of a person you’ve created, and you are trying to and cannot fix (that person),” Middlebrook says to Grande. “The only person you can fix is yourself. This has gone on way too long.”
Despite three songs being released as singles before the Feb. 8 album launch, there are still more powerful party beats on the album. In “bloodline,” Grande uses a groovy beat and defines a relationship as one just for fun — no strings attached: “Don’t want you in my bloodline/ Just wanna have a good time/ Ain’t no need to apologize/ But you’re gonna have to let this shit go.”
Grande’s use of samples on “thank u, next” should be commended. In addition to Middlebrook’s voicemail, we hear Wendy Rene’s “After Laughter (Comes Tears)” on “fake smile,” and Grande’s own grandmother recited the beginning of “bloodline.”
Instead of milking her last album dry and touring it to death, Grande successfully crosses the bridge that “Sweetener” created. With “thank u, next,” we’ve been given quality work in practically no time, and despite the roller coaster 2018 was for Grande, she’s proven she can still give us the upbeat tracks we’ve come to love.
But the quality of “thank u, next” poses one question many are still afraid to ask: Will this album be Grande’s peak?