‘thank u, next’ Has Massive Highs, Even Lower Lows

Daniel Fappiano, Layout Editor

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Perhaps no pop artist currently in the mainstream is as well-known as Ariana Grande. With her recent engagement and then separation from actor Pete Davidson still fresh in listener’s minds, the mega-star saw fit to drop her fifth studio album, “thank u, next.” While Grande manages to produce some of her best work to date, she also manages to hit some confusing and tasteless lows.

The album starts off with the song “imagine,” in which Grande describes a world where she and her lover are together. As an opener, the song comes off as bland. There is nothing that makes it stand out from any other song on this album or as pop in general. It is hard to imagine, pun intended, that this song will be a memorable one in Grande’s discography.

Unfortunately for Grande, the same level of blandness occurs on the second track, “needy.” Unlike “imagine,” this track is one of the shortest on the album and gets right to the point. The singer remarks about how she is damaged and not a perfect woman, but is trying to change. It is not necessarily a bad song, but again is bland and somewhat melts in with many other tracks on the album.

On her third track, “NASA,” Grande puts together a fun banger that really packs a punch. The chorus is one of the best on the album as she sings about how she needs space to move on. Her N-A-S-A refrain is thoughtful and makes the song worthwhile. While other tracks are more somber in nature, “NASA” brings some much-needed energy, despite the subject matter.

However, while “NASA” is one of the best on the album, the following track “bloodline” falls into the same problem of forgettable pop music. The horns throughout the song are interesting, but Grande’s performance comes off like any other song she has made. The subject matter, or just wanting a good time and not a husband is interesting, but overall, “bloodline” falls into the same category as “imagine” and “needy.”

Grande’s next track “fake smile” is one of the most interesting on the album. While the verses sound a dime a dozen, the chorus is arguably one of the best on the entire project. The singer croons about how she just wants to be normal and does not want to fake a smile. The chorus is one of the more beautiful moments on the album, despite the lackluster performance throughout each verse.

While “fake smile” may be a high point on the album, the following two tracks, “bad idea” and “make up” prove how inconsistent Grande is throughout.

In “bad idea,” Grande sings about how she or another woman should forget about their ex-lover or problems and “run away.” The track is the second longest on the entire album, but brings nothing new to the table. It sounds like any other pop song you would hear on the radio and does not stand out in the context of the album. The final minute of the song sees Grande’s chorus slowed down with added reverb, however, it adds nothing and does not bring any other idea forward.

In “make up,” Grande sings about how she wants an ex-lover back but perhaps not for the best reasons. While it is not as throw-away as “bad idea,” it is another bland moment on the album. It does not really add or take anything away and sounds more like filler than anything else.

Despite Grande’s inconsistencies, the next track “ghostin” is not just the best of the album, but a significant moment in both culture and pop music. Grande sings about the loss of former boyfriend Mac Miller, who died last year due to a drug overdose. Throughout the song, she openly blames herself for his death and asks why he had to leave. It is by far the most emotional track on the whole album. Grande’s willingness to talk about such a serious topic, in such an eloquent manner is what will make “thank u, next” a memorable album.

She follows up her most beautiful song with another run of the mill track with “in my head.” The song has a nice beat, but again somewhat melts into almost every other song that was on the album. While it is hard to follow up a song as powerful as “ghostin,” “in my head” misses the mark.

The next two tracks are the promotional songs for the album: “7 rings” and “thank, u next.”

While “thank u, next” is fun and arguably one of the better songs on the album, “7 ring” is one of Grande’s lows. As she tries to go hip hop, she sounds like Taylor Swift on her latest album “Reputation.” The track does not mesh well with the others and sticks out like a sore thumb on the track list.

Grande ends the album with, “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored.” Not only is the song boring in nature, but the context is incredibly petty and contradictory.

Throughout the album, Grande has beautiful moments discussing how she is not a perfect woman or lover but is trying to become a better person. Songs like “needy,” “fake smile” and even “thank u, next” show how Grande is trying to improve. However, on songs like “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored,” “make up” and “bloodline” she sings about how she needs a man to be happy. How Ariana Grande handles her breakups and future relationships is entirely her decision and not up to public debate. However, after listening to this album, it is very unclear on if she wants to be with a man or is comfortable progressing on her own.

Musically, Grande shines on “ghostin,” “NASA” and “fake smile.” Her successes show just why she is so powerful in the pop industry. Despite her power, she shows she is not perfect as low lights such as “bad idea” and many tracks melting into each other cloud the album.

With so-so musical performances and a confusing personal angle, “thank u, next” shows off Grande’s abilities to make catchy, yet sometimes forgettable pop music.

Overall: 5/10