Album Analysis: “Thank U, Next” by Ariana Grande

February 8th was left “shooketh” when Ariana Grande released her unexpected (but definitely not unwelcomed) 5th studio album “thank u, next”, less than 6 months after her 4th studio album “sweetener” which was released August 17th, 2018.

If you are not a fan of Ariana or haven’t really kept up with her life, here are some key things to know. This information provides context and background that’s important to remember for this album. I decided to do a quick infographic because…DAMMMNNN has this girl been through a lot of shit (like… really…REAL…shit).

(Brief recent background information on Ariana Grande that provides contextual understanding to “thank u, next” album.)

Yeah, she’s been through some serious shit. However, for her 5th studio album analysis, I’d like to bring your attention to two very important events in which are pivotal references towards the themes and inspirations towards the music for this album:

  • Ariana and Pete’s relationship
  • Mac Miller’s drug overdose

These two events heavily influenced the music and theme for this album. Be sure to keep that in mind through the analysis of each track.

Another thing that I want to point out is none other than the Zach Sang Show. Ariana did her album premiere interview with Zach and I’ll be referencing a lot from that interview since it was about the album with lots of good background information and context to some of the tracks. Here’s the interview if you’d like to watch the full thing (click here).

So without further ado, let’s get started.

(tracklist to “thank u, next” album, released by E! News)

Track I: imagine

“imagine” is about her ideal love, her ideal relationship, the ideal way things should be and play out. It’s a fun introductory track towards a more heavy theme and conceptual tracklist. Enjoy it because there’s only a couple of songs that are nice and light.

Track II: needy

Personally, this track is one of my favorite songs on the album. Needy is a song about someone (her) being “needy” for their (her) partner’s attention, emotional support, and overall presence. In an interview with the Zach Sang show, she told Zach how everyone’s needy for something when it comes to a relationship. Overall, the essence of the song is light, but the theme surrounds the idea of people having needs in terms of emotional stability with one another and having trust and vulnerability.

“I’ma scream and shout for what I love
Passionate but I don’t give no fucks
I admit that I’m a lil’ messed up
But I can hide it when I’m all dressed up”

“needy” by Ariana Grande

Track III: NASA

NASA is all about space (not Pete peeps). She uses the imagery of space and the space station to symbolize her needing space, but the other person is welcomed to wait.

“This is one small step for woman
One giant leap for woman-kind”

~”NASA” by Ariana Grande

“You don’t wanna leave me, but I’m tryna self-discover”

~”NASA” by Ariana Grande

Track IV: bloodline

Bloodline is such a powerful and interesting choice of wording for the idea of not wanting to be tied or connected long term with someone. The song is about her just wanting a good time, nothing serious, and overall does not want to have any long term commitment or attachment (ex: baby) with a person. To basically sum up the entire song with one string of lyrics it’s about her saying that she knows what this person wants in a relationship and from her, but she won’t give it.

“I know what you want, what you want from me
I know what you think, what you think you see
I know what you looking for, but I’m complete
I know what you need, but it won’t be me”

“bloodline” by Ariana Grande

Track V: fake smile

“fake smile” by Ariana Grande from her YouTube Channel

Fake smile is a song that is just giving a middle finger to the world. The message of the song is that we live in a society that uses the phrase “I’m fine” and fake smiling as a way to be polite rather than admitting there’s a pain inside. It’s a declaration that no longer will she pretend to be okay, pretend to smile and show a fake face towards society.

I just wanted to take a moment to really appreciate and comment on the message of this song. It brings up a very valid point about today’s society; a society that crafts and present a fake face towards each other, even if it’s a lie. This song acknowledges this sad truth and proclaims that it needs to stop. People need to just be honest and I think that 2019 is definitely the year that people just no longer care about societal opinions, namely because we are all finally acknowledging and seeing the toxic monster that it is.

“After laughter comes tears
After laughter comes tears”

~”fake smile” by Ariana Grande

“I can’t fake another smile
I can’t fake like I’m alright”

~”fake smile” by Ariana Grande

“Fuck a fake smile”

~”fake smile” by Ariana Grande

Track VI: bad idea

Trying to numb a temporary pain….is always a bad idea. This song is a boppy and catchy tune about wanting to forget her relationship/life pains by temporarily calling up someone. It’s about wanting to numb a problem and not deal with it. Temporarily forgets the issue through the distraction of someone else.

“Forget about it, yeah, 
forget about him, yeah
Forget about me”

~”bad idea” by Ariana Grande

Track VII: make up

This song is pretty much a cute tune for the masochists. It’s about stirring drama and fights with your partner just to get their reaction and “make-up” (wink wink) with them afterward. Just a song for shits and giggles to be honest. Ariana Grande told Zack Sang that her mom didn’t like the song because of it’s masochistic vibe and even admits that while she’s listening to it she thinks about how she “hates” that part of herself for it (click here for full Zach Sang Interview).

“My energy and attitude don’t really coincide
I’m stayin’ mad all day so we can let it out tonight
Bring you to the bed where we can really make it right
Sorry in the box, and when it pops up, surprise surprise”

~”make up” by Ariana Grande

Track VIII: ghostin

“ghostin” by Ariana Grande from her YouTube Channel

ghostin. Where do I even begin?!

This is the saddest song on the album with the melody is very dreary and full of emotional heartache. The song is about her being with Pete Davidson, but missing Mac Miller after his overdose. It’s about her physically being with someone, but emotionally wishing for someone else. In her interview with Zach Sang, she confesses that she never even finished the entire song (only having two versus compared to the three that’s standard for a song) and that it was the hardest one to write (taking weeks). This song’s emotional vulnerability and confessional message really make this song stand out over her other songs that are more “imma do me”.

Track IX: in my head

“in my head” by Ariana Grande from her YouTube Channel

This song is for anyone who’s made assumptions about people, had a mental version of someone that wasn’t that way in reality, and for pretty much EVERYBODY. The song’s about her confession of falling in love with someone who wasn’t who she thought that person was. The song centers around the idea that we as human beings make assumptions and unconscious expectations of people we have relatinships with.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be a romantic relationship (the relationship that’s talked about in the song), it can honestly be any. We see people through our own lens, which can create an entirely different character. It’s why people become disappointed in relationships (friendships/lovers); because there’s that assumption, expectation, and just idea of someone that you envision, but is not, in reality, them.

She highlights throughout the song that she essentially “created” this person. One of my personal favorite parts of the song is when she talks about seeing their potential. Sometimes we see someone’s potential and their best qualities, yet we fail to see their actions and behaviors in who they are at THAT moment. It’s why some people say they can “change” that person and do not see their toxic/bad behaviors (or at the very least downplay/accept them). Overall, GREAT SONG with GREAT MEANING!

“Here’s the thing
You’re in love with a version of a person that you’ve created in your head
That you are trying to but cannot fix
Uh, the only thing you can fix is yourself
I love you, this has gone on way too long
Enough is enough
I’m two blocks away, I’m coming over””

“Everything you are made you everything you aren’t
I saw your potential without seein’ credentials (-entials)
Maybe that’s the issue 

~”in my head” by Ariana Grande

“I saw your potential without seein’ credentials”

~”in my head” by Ariana Grande

Track X: 7 rings

7 rings is a song about women empowering each other, not needing to be dependent on a relationship/person to make you happy, and just an overall throwback to the character development (and iconic character) of Maria (played by Julie Andrews) in the nostalgic musical film, Sound of Music!

“Been through some bad shit, I should be a sad bitch
Who woulda thought it’d turn me to a savage?”

~”7 rings” by Ariana Grande

“My smile is beamin’, my skin is gleamin’
The way it shine, I know you’ve seen it “

~”7 rings” by Ariana Grande

Track XI: thank u, next

Do I even really need to type this one out? (cue: singing about her exes by name and mean girls).

Track XII: break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored

“break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored” by Ariana Grande from her YouTube Channel

Okay, this song is very different visually than audio..ly. Lemme explain.

So, in the song it’s simple, she wants the guy to break up with his girlfriend so she can have him.

HOWEVERRRRR

The music video is a MUCH more complex story, one that has the internet and fans RAGING over who’s right in terms of it’s metaphorical and symbolic meaning.

Aside from the first interpretation (she wants her man), the other idea is that she wants the girl. She wants the guy to break up with his girlfriend so she can have HER.

The third interpretation (and frankly one I vote for too), is that she sees that girlfriend as a version of herself (and or is a version of herself). She wants the boyfriend to break up with the girlfriend because that girl is actually her, a version of herself.

I know, it’s complicated. Lemme EXPLAIN.

The entire album is themed around Ariana (or her character, whatever floats your boat), choosing herself over everyone else. It’s about being real when it comes to who she wanted, confess her unhappiness, taking time to reflect and be alone, and just be empowered by her circle of friends/family. So, when you watch the music video, there is a ton of foreshadows, interpretations, easter eggs, and metaphorical concepts that can allude to this idea (look at me using my fancy ass knowledge in literature vocabulary lol).

She is either a different version, future version, independent version, or WHATEVER version going to that girlfriend and wanting her boyfriend to free herself.

Overall Thoughts!

I am NOT someone who can say I’ve been a fan or anything since day one. For me, her songs were always hit or miss. This album though…

IS AMAZING!

Songs, albums, and just music that is inspired by the human experience just really shine in today’s day and age with music. There is two types of art in the world, one where it shares and expresses those experiences, and another that distracts or creates a fantasy away from those experiences. Both types are beautiful and necessary, but in today’s world, it’s almost a crime to bring back reality and talk about topics like politics, mental health, and just anything. Censorship, demonetization, and silencing have become so prevalent in society that it’s the norm. It’s tragic.

I really loved this album. I think I loved it so much is because I can HEAR her emotions, thoughts, and experiences through the music. I got chills from listening to her music; that’s how I know I either strongly relate to her with my own human experience or think the same thoughts and have had those revelations.

Personal Favs: “needy”, “fake smile”, “in my head”, and “ghostin”

Overall, GREAT ALBUM!

~xox, M.V.J

follow me on instagram: m.v.jenkins

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s