To begin this review, I would like to make it clear that I was not and currently am not a big Ariana Grande fan. I never particularly liked any of her songs -- not to say that her voice is not amazing- and even going back to her days on Nickelodeon’s Victorious, she was my least favourite character. However, I can say that throughout the past year and a half I have really come to admire her for facing the traumatizing challenges that she has been faced with (such as the attack on her concert in Manchester) with bravery and grace. This incredible attitude and strength of character comes through in her song “thank u, next” and its video, along with a catchy tune and entertaining music video to accompany it.
At first listen, it may seem that Grande is treating her exes in a dismissive way, because of connotations of the phrase “thank u, next,” making the listener think of her pursuit for love as some sort of casting process. As one listens closer to the song, however, it becomes clear that the song has more of a message of gratitude than dismissal. Grande mentions by name some of her previous relationships, most of which were heavily scrutinized by the media and public, and states a reason that she is grateful for each of them. This is a rhetoric that is missing in a lot of breakup songs in pop culture that focus on the bad parts of a relationship once it has ended, instead of the growth that occurred during the relationship.
Ariana Grande also treats some heavily emotional topics, albeit briefly, with a candor and vulnerability that forces the listener to reflect upon their own lives. For example when she says that she wishes she “could say thank you to Malcolm ‘cause he was an angel.’” Here she acknowledges the death of her former boyfriend Mac Miller, for which she was blamed by the media, and her regret for not telling her how grateful she was for their relationship. Grande also speaks about her father leaving and her admiration for her mother’s growth through “the drama.”
All this is not to say that the song is perfect, however. “thank u, next” has many classic gimmicks of a pop song that try to make it appeal to the masses that actually dull down its message, in my opinion, because people get too caught up singing along to the catchy tune and the overly repeated hook to take the time to think about the lyrics. On the other hand, the lightness of the song itself along with the comedy of the video -- which recreates scenes from famous cheesy movies and too many cameos of famous Hollywood personalities to count -- show Grande’s positive outlook on her life as she prefers to have fun and help others have fun rather than focus on all the negatives.
Overall, “thank u, next” is a song that everyone can somehow enjoy. Whether it be with a dance-able tune, meaningful message or impressive vocals Grande is able to show the world a bit of who she is and put out a positive message amidst so many negative ones while still catering to a mainstream audience -- which is really all one can ask for when creating a pop song.