Decoding Ariana Grande’s ‘thank u, next’



Ariana Grande’s single ‘thank u, next’ was released on November 3, 2018. (Courtesy of Facebook)

By Helen Stevenson

Ariana Grande has been going through a lot lately. I will not rehash the details because I am sure by now you have heard all about her experiences and someone needs to give that girl a break. But instead of allowing the tabloids or online critics to take control of her narrative, Grande released the ultimate break up song, which has been sitting at No. 1 on Billboard for three weeks in a row.

To be clear, I am not even sure I would call it a break up song. Yes, Grande mentions her exes, but “thank u, next,” released Saturday, Nov. 3, is a pop anthem that emphasizes growth and self-care.

First, though, she does spill some tea about her exes. She mentions  that she thought she would “end up with” rapper Big Sean, “wrote some songs” about dancer Ricky Alvarez and “even almost got married” to comedian Pete Davidson. She also mentions the late Mac Miller lovingly, singing, “Wish I could say thank you to Malcolm / ‘Cause he was an angel.”

It is very rare that a musical artist addresses their personal life so directly. She does not shade these men in an attempt to instigate drama or play into media onslaught. Instead, she just sings her truth. She knows people are talking about her and her relationships, and she addresses these topics head on.

To her exes, Grande says “thank u, next.” As in, thank you for all that you have taught me – love, patience and pain – because the lessons made me the amazing person I am today. Next, it is time for me to move on.

Though “thank u, next” is a difficult mantra to embrace but such a positive message to give to the world. Break-ups are hard. It would be easy for her to let  the heartbreak and anger consume her thoughts, and her music, but instead she chose to learn from it.

Her enunciation throughout the chorus is a bit dismissive but not in an arrogant way. The tone is confident, but not vengeful. She is genuinely grateful for every struggle in her past relationships and actively works to learn from these experiences.

In the second verse, Grande scares us a little. She sings about how she met someone else, how they are having better discussions. But plot twist! That person is herself. And, “she’s so good with that.” Grande is working through her experiences right now. She is processing her emotions and trying to be a better person every day. Her relationship with herself, she says, is one that will last.

This song handles relationships in the healthiest way. The lyrics concentrate on embracing the tragedies of life and learning from them. She speaks on positivity and self love, growth and emotional intelligence. Plus, it is a bop. Her vocals are impeccable as always, and it is almost impossible not to dance along with the tune.

Also, do not even get me started on the buzz for the music video. Grande, a queen of social media, has been posting about the concept, a homage to four iconic movies with powerful female leads: Mean Girls, Bring it On!, 13 Going on 30 and Legally Blonde. It is destined to be a cinematic masterpiece that I will probably watch on loop for approximately two weeks. (If my mom is reading this, do not worry; I will study for finals in between.)

So will people listen to the lyrics and stop criticizing Grande throughout this traumatic period? Will they allow her to be grateful for everything in her life and collectively move on? No, probably not. But as Grande puts it: “at least this song is a smash.”