Just a few months after her Sweetener release and Ariana Grande returns with one of her strongest records to date, yet it seems like a lifetime for her. Fueled by the sudden death of her ex-boyfriend Mac Miller, break up with her fiancee Pete Davidson, and her struggles with anxiety and depression, Grande delivers a catchy yet distinctively somber album. Without further ado, here's a track-by-track review of her latest album, thank u, next.
The album opens with her first single, "imagine". I have to admit that this one grew on me. I appreciate the RnB influence in the chord progression, as well as the "click, click, click, and post" line - it's a cute nod to romance in the digital age. I honestly think the song could do without the whistle tones at the end but for the most part, Grande's vocals on this song make for a very strong opener. Immediately after we get "needy", which I absolutely adore. TBHits does a really good job at keeping the production simple enough to let her voice shine, yet enhancing it at just the right places - I love the effect he ran the chords through. The melody is super catchy, and you can also tell by listening that she truly means every word she says. I love the message of flipping a term that is typically used to shame people and turning it into something empowering. Oh, and the strings at the end? Absolutely gorgeous. Yes. Yes. Yes.
Up next is "NASA", and as someone who's actually written a song using a space metaphor, it's a cute touch I can appreciate. I like how the 808 keeps the verses and chorus alive. It's not the greatest song on the album but it's a decent track, and I'm not surprised this one has stood out her fans, given the current NASA hype. "bloodline" seems to be another fan-favorite. It kind of reminds me of something Jessie J would have released in 2014, but I can't really hate it. The production is immaculate and the horns are an interesting addition. "fake smile" is another familiar sounding track, but it's one of my favorites from the album. I love the way the sample is incorporated, and she sounds super honest and up front on "f*ck a fake smile". And speaking of sampling... the rework of Mac Miller's "2019" on "ghostin" nearly gave me chills. The strings that build up through the song seem calculated but in a good way. It's one of the sadder moments on the album, and Ariana sounds beautifully depressing.
There are a few songs on this project that have good potential but don't quite pan out. The beat on "bad idea" is sick (the song as a whole kind of feels like a throwback to Fergie's "Glamorous"), and I love how dramatic the instrumental gets right before the last chorus, but the outro and the "Ari-Chan"s are completely unnecessary... the latter because the song has nothing to do with Japanese culture. "make up" is one of the dopest songs on the album but frankly, it's just too short. It feels unfinished. And despite its interesting lyrical premise, "in my head" feels over-produced, probably to compensate for the fact that it isn't that that catchy/nor does it really go anywhere.
Despite a few blunders, Grande finishes the album strong. "7 rings" is another track that grew on me, probably because the production finesse TBHits and Social House bring to the table is just too good to ignore. Speaking of which, "thank u, next" still remains one of my favorites from the record, and was definitely an instant, dare I say, smash, for a reason. I thought "break up with your girlfriend, i'm bored" was a pretty bizarre way to end the album, but it's still one of the best tracks here. The beat on this goes hard, the minimal sine that constitutes the production on the pre-chorus is great, and the vocal layering of "girlfriend" is nice too. I've been seeing her get a lot of backlash from the lyrics, which while I agree aren't the nicest, isn't really valid. I've seen plenty of rappers openly talk about philandering with multiple women whilst being in a relationship in their songs, and it's also a reminder that Gen Z's Queen of Pop isn't perfect - she's been through a lot this past year, and she'll continue to make mistakes.
Overall, I thought the majority of the songs on thank u, next were pretty good. I appreciated that she took the risk of deciding to take a darker approach, especially when her music usually, and still is, very commercial. Despite a few off moments it's an excellent album. She has a big team behind her with a lot of experience, so it didn't really have much room to fail.
Favorites: "needy", "fake smile", "ghostin", "thank u, next", "break up with your girlfriend, i'm bored"
Least favorite: "in my head"
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