Ariana Grande teases new chapter with ‘thank u, next’

The pop singer pays homage to the sound of her recent album, “Sweetener,” while sharing candid messages of self-love and healing.

Ariana Grande is already back with new music after releasing her fourth studio album, “Sweetener,” in August, and — as she has freely admitted — still has a few tears left to cry.

While the pop singer previously remained largely silent about her breakup with “Saturday Night Live” star Pete Davidson in mid-October, she began to drop hints about new work via Twitter (“I love sweetener sm...but yea i’m v excited for dis one too,” Grande wrote on Oct. 24).

When Davidson jokingly proposed to musician Maggie Rogers as a jab at his and Grande’s whirlwind relationship in an “SNL” promo, she responded with a deluge of since-deleted subtweets (the last of which simply read, “thank u, next”).

This declaration was revealed as the title of her next song and upcoming album and, in a delightfully petty move, the former was released only thirty minutes before “Saturday Night Live” began taping.

However, despite its snappy title and the timing of its release, “thank u, next” is anything but vengeful. Much like “Sweetener,” Grande’s new single invokes elements of R&B and exudes casual genuineness as the singer thanks her exes for helping her grow (“So, look what I got / Look what you taught me”) and looks optimistically toward the future.

In contrast to many pop breakup anthems, Grande isn’t ambiguous about who inspired “thank u, next.” Instead, in a knowing nod to the extensive media attention that her personal life has received, she name drops four of her ex-lovers — Big Sean, Ricky Alvarez, Davidson and recently deceased rapper, Mac Miller (who she eulogizes in the song, singing, “Wish I could say, ‘Thank you’ to Malcolm / ’Cause he was an angel”). In the next verse, Grande turns questions of romance and compatibility on their heads as she openly sing-talks about her next love — herself (“Plus, I met someone else / ...her name is Ari / And I’m so good with that”).

The lyrics’ directness also allows Grande to differentiate her single from a number of recent breakup songs that have preached self-love (see Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Party for One,” which debuted only two days before “thank u, next”). Unlike many pop singers who have garnered such a massive level of mainstream success (such as Rihanna, Lorde and Beyoncé), she hasn’t chosen to retreat from interviews, frequent releases and personal statements — instead, Grande regularly shares about her life and musical experimentation, assuming an active voice in conversations surrounding her position in pop culture.

More than anything, one can’t help but admire Grande’s reflective gratitude, especially after the tumultuous year she’s had. With such a frenzied news cycle on all fronts, it can be easy to forget that she was recently blamed on social media for Miller’s death, survived a suicide bomb attack in Manchester and was scrutinized following the end of her engagement. With that context, the pop star’s willingness to reflect on her personal life on such a large platform speaks to her musical range, as well as her maturity at only 25 years old. As she croons in her new single, “God forbid something happens / Least this song is a smash.”

Edited by Siena DeBolt | sdebolt@themaneater.com

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