ALBUM REVIEW — Ariana Grande’s “thank u, next”
I consider myself a casual Ariana Grande fan. Some of her songs I really enjoy quite a bit, whereas other songs are just not for me. That being said her last release, Sweetener, was a very solid album. When I was making my top 10 albums list for 2018, hers was the one I wish I spent more time listening to as it had some absolutely mesmerizing tracks like no tears left to cry, god is a woman, and blazed. It has been six months since the release of Sweetener and now Grande is back with her newest album, thank u, next. Without further ado here are my thoughts on the newest Ariana Grande album, thank u, next.
Prior to the release of this album, Grande had dropped three singles; imagine, 7 rings, and thank u, next. Out of these three thank u, next is easily the most popular (and my personal favorite). The production on all three songs were definitely good indicators as to how this entire album was going to sound, and I could not be happier about that. The production on Sweetener was amazing and I am personally very glad that carried over to this album. The song imagine plays as the opener for the album and I think it does its job excellently. The high notes that Grande hits always sound great and here they serve as a nice gateway into the rest of the album.
As for 7 rings, this is probably more of a controversial opinion as I know there were people upset about Grande releasing her attempt at a rap song, but I actually was also a fan of this. I originally was against it upon my first few listens, but her voice & the production really work in unison to draw you in and it manages to be a really enjoyable and fun song. It’s a flip on the classic song My Favorite Things from The Sound of Music, and while I doubt Julie Andrews ever expected this to come from the original song, it surprisingly works. I also think it helps that Grande really excels with her charisma on tracks like this and the closer of the album, (break up with your girlfriend, cause i’m bored) with both tracks benefiting from her confidence despite being less traditional pop songs.
thank u, next is without a doubt the best of the singles released, and also has the best music video so far from this album. It mashes up several popular movies and does it in a respectable manner. These recent music videos from Ari, from both Sweetener and thank u, next have all been really impressive, with each of them featuring outstanding direction and cinematography. As a big film fan, I have to give props to her and the production team backing her because all of these videos are a blessing from a cinematic standpoint. The song itself is motivational and therapeutic, while also just allowing itself to sound fun. It is easily one of Grande’s best songs from her entire discography.
For the first part of this review I am going to take a look at some of the standout tracks on the album. nasa was immediately one of these for me upon my first listen and has continued to be a personal favorite ever since. The upbeat production and catchy hook are both wonderful, and Grande also sounds exceptional throughout the track’s runtime (especially with the self harmonies). This is definitely one of the best songs on the album and the wordplay regarding space is pretty fun.
The song fake smile was surprising if not solely for the fact that we now live in a world where Ariana Grande has a song that samples the Wu-Tang Clan. Welcome to 2019! The actual song itself is very good too. I think it would have ran the risk of being bad had Grande attempted to just flip Wu-Tang’s Tearz by straight up rapping the whole time. Thankfully she did not do that and left the rapping (for the most part) to the legends. Like the other standout tracks on the album, her charisma and voice are both exquisite, but the lyrics here are also poignant with this continuing the theme of the album of being an exercise of therapy for the singer.
My personal favorite song on the album was ghostin. It is the most introspective and emotional song on the entire album, something reflected in the tone of the music. The production is more ethereal with an orchestral background behind Grande’s angelic vocals. The song itself feels like a reflection from Grande following the death of former partner Mac Miller, and the emotional aspects of the song really hit hard. This song really steals the show on an album full of truly impressive and memorable songs. The only thing I think this song could have benefited from was being placed as the closing song on the album rather than as the eighth track, though that seems more of an structural issue on whoever ordered the songs that way. In my opinion this has to be one of Ariana Grande’s best songs to date.
Just to rapidly hit on a few songs, bad idea works as a song. As a whole it’s good, but where it shines is its outro. The production on the entire song is great, but it is truly wonderful on the slowed down outro of the track. Honestly, it keeps growing on me and had this review came out a week or two later, it might be considered a standout. needy was also really good. Grande sounds great and the more restrained production (compared the the rest of the album) feels very welcome here. Also I am a sucker for a good outro with some nice sounded strings, something this song does indeed feature. Then there is make up, a song that would have been a standout track if it had not been so short. Seriously, I found myself wanting more as the song ended and still continue to want that every time it plays. As for bloodline, this is a song where the production outshines the singer. Grande still sounds great, but the instrumentals sound grand and ambitious whereas she really is not doing anything too unique for herself on this track. In my mind, that holds this song back from being anything special.
The final track of the album is entitled, break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored, and let’s just take a moment to look at it real quick on its own. Grande dropped a music video for the song at midnight in promotion of the album release and in a not-so-shocking development, the direction and production on her videos continues to shine bright. The cinematography is excellent in the video and helps heighten the mood of the song in every possible way. Speaking of the song, while the content may help paint the singer in a negative light (depending on how you look at it, either via the lyrics or the video, arguments can be made in different ways), it does keep with her transition from young Nickelodeon star to mainstream pop icon with growing maturity and sexual imagery in her songs and music videos. The change is a welcome one that is a continuation in growth from her previous album Sweetener which saw her move away from more generic pop in favor of experimenting with different production styles and vocal patterns. This song which has a title too long to repeat does actually sound really good despite the questionable subject matter. Grande’s voice sounds fantastic and the production value of the song is on par with the rest of the album.
The only song I actually was not a fan of was in my head. It really is the epitome of mediocre when you look at the rest of the album. The production is not spectacular, the lyrics are incredibly dull, and Grande does not even come off as being too in love with the song in her performance. It is just a very skippable song when you look at the rest of this album. This and the briefly mentioned bloodline are the two songs that prevent this album from being called a true masterpiece.
Many were wondering what Grande’s album was going to sound like since it came as a surprise that she had another one coming out so soon after the release of Sweetener. This is definitely a continued step in the right direction for Grande with eleven of the twelve songs on the album all being overwhelmingly good. The production is a highlight on this album just as it was on her last, with her voice still sounding absolutely incredible. Since this is a review I feel like I do need to give the album a rating, so all things considered I can comfortably give this album a solid 8.5/10. I highly recommend even for those not already listening to Ariana Grande as she really has matured from her early work.
You can stream thank u, next on Apple Music, Spotify, Google Play, Tidal, and any other music streaming/buying service.
If you enjoyed this review be sure to check out my previous writing on Mac Miller: