Ariana Grande is at an odd point. In the middle of her biggest era of her career thus, less than six months out from her last album release and at the very peak of the industry. Many woman have occupied that spot before her and it’s safe to assume many will after her. However, what goes up must come down. What was once endearing becomes annoying, what was once incredible becomes boring, and so the cycle continues. It will be. An interesting moment to see if, how and when Grande falls. However, with the release of thank u, next, it’s safe to say it won’t be her music that brings about her downfall.
Despite the pressure of all eyes being on her, Grande safely pulls off what could well be her defining album. Her fifth studio album thus far, thank u, next builds on her previous releases, taking the good from her hit and miss Sweetener and ramping up the experimentation. The first thing you notice on thank u, next is the cohesion. Thank u, next is wonderfully diverse yet cohesive unlike the homogeneous-ness of Sweetener that bordered on cannibalism. Here, Grande flicks between genuine ballads, back to fiery trap numbers and even throws it back to her Broadway roots. The album never feels clunky, even in its more filler-esque moments, of which there are a few. ‘ break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored’ is not the most endearing moment of Grande’s discography, instead coming off as bit of a nasty attempt to recapture the drama of lead single ‘thank u, next’. ‘make up’ isn’t anything particularly exciting and sounds a bit like a reject from the first half of Sweetener, while ‘bad idea’ is an ok track with no real purpose. The three tracks are quite out of place given the rest of the record, which has a very distinct, and very purposeful voice. ‘imagine’ is a gorgeous opener that soars into the rafters before bringing us back down to earth and transitioning into the equally beautiful ‘needy’. Grande’s songwriting style is even more clear on the ballads here, as she refuses to switch away from the more informal writing that is typical of the more banger-trap moments. thank u, next’s superior ballad is appropriately haunting ‘ghostin’, which really showcases the emotion in Grande’s vocal, as well as skill of Max Martin and his team. Martin is also all over another album highlight ‘bloodline’, which is fierce, pop-reggaeton banger that offers a moment of pure fun in the album’s track-list. The album’s two singles, title track ‘thank u, next’ and ‘7 rings’ are easily the most commercial offerings here, with the former being arguably the easily marketed tracks ever, and the latter just being a straight up banger. ‘7 rings’ is probably the most out of place track, with its Sound of Music sample and complete display of richness in an otherwise quite emotional album, but the brilliance of the track makes it easy to overlook.
Overall, thank u, next seems as though it’s supposed to be Grande equivalent of Beyoncé’s Lemonade, but given that Grande has far less to say, thank u, next is ultimately more comparable to Rihanna’s Anti. Like Anti, thank u, next isn’t a perfect album, nor is it the industry changer that Lemonade was, however, it marks an important shift in Grande’s career. Here, she seems more in control, more sure of herself, of what she wants to sound like more so than what she needs to sound like. thank u, next probably won’t alter the world as we know it, but it certainly will alter Grande’s world and it’s truly a sight to behold.