‘Issa mood, issa vibe,’ but is it a match?
On Friday, Feb. 8, Ariana Grande released her highly anticipated new album, “thank u, next,” named after her record-smashing single of the same name. Grande’s latest release immediately broke records, becoming the fastest album to hit No. 1 on iTunes in just five minutes, with all songs on the iTunes chart as well.
The first song on the record, “imagine,” is a soft, dreamy lament of what could have been in a relationship that went wrong. Most fans speculate that this song was written about rapper and Grande’s ex-boyfriend Mac Miller, who tragically passed away in September of 2018.
The second song, “needy,” was teased by Grande on her social media prior to the album’s release and certainly delivers on vocals. However, the rest of the song leaves something to be desired in terms of substance in the background.
“NASA” is full of tight background harmonies while Grande sings about the importance of personal space and maintaining independence in a relationship. “NASA” is a perfect embodiment of the empowered, confident woman that Grande has grown into over the course of her career.
The next song, “bloodline,” is on the same level of empowerment as “NASA,” but with a little more edge. The fourth track on the album has a sound extremely reminiscent of Grande’s “God is a woman” off of her previous album, “Sweetener.” Bold and confident, “bloodline” is truly Grande at her best in this album.
Grande triumphs in vocals and production for “fake smile,” but the lyrics leave something to be desired. With retro, ‘50s-style background harmonies contrasting the pop beat of the song, “fake smile” sets forth with a message of staying true to your emotions even when it’s inconvenient to those around you. This message gets unfortunately lost in the bridge of the song, which shifts base and turns Grande into a caricature of a small child throwing a tantrum, with a tone that is completely incongruous with the rest of the song.
The songs “bad idea,” “make up” and “in my head” all showcase the overall vibe of “thank u, next” best on the album. The vocals and production are top-notch and the lyrics each tell vividly heartbreaking stories.
Lyrically, however, the eighth song takes the crown. Many fans suspect the heartbreaking ballad “ghostin” to be about the breakdown of Grande’s relationship with comedian Pete Davidson in the wake of Miller’s death. Grande sampled the strings on Miller’s song “2009,” adding to suspicions about the subjects of “ghostin.”
On her Twitter, Grande said that the song is about “feeling badly for the person you’re with bc [sic] you love somebody else. feeling badly bc [sic] he can tell he can’t compare.... and how i should be ghosting him.”
“7 rings” and “thank u, next,” both promotional singles for the album, broke records and have topped the Billboard Hot 100 charts for several weeks.
While these two songs are undeniable hits and have pushed Grande’s fame to new heights, they don’t seem to fit in when taken with the album as a whole. They seem to have more pomp than substance, and the sound isn’t quite right for the rest of the album.
The album’s closer, “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored,” was released alongside the album with a music video at the time of the album’s release. Despite the admittedly problematic premise of the song – specifically, pitting women against each other for the attention of a man – “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored” is undoubtedly set to be Grande’s next hit.
Overall, “thank u, next” is a solid pop album. It has a largely cohesive sound, energy and sincerity, as well as a grand total of 83 utterances of Grande’s near-patented “yuh.” Though the lyrics occasionally leave something to be desired, they feel completely Ariana Grande.