Ariana Grande Releases “thank u, next” Album

Popular sensation Ariana Grande has had a whirlwind of a year. Since the release of her sugar-pop 2018 record “Sweetener,” the high-pitched singer has garnered near-constant public attention with the untimely passing of her ex-boyfriend and rapper Mac Miller and her ill-fated engagement to ex-fiancĂ© and Saturday Night Live alum Pete Davidson.

In December of 2018, less than five months after the release of “Sweetener,” Grande returned to the music spotlight with her single “thank u, next,” which took audiences by storm, rocketing itself to platinum status the same week that the song’s music video took the record for most first-day views on YouTube, subsequently breaking the 100-million-views marker in just three days. Two months later, Grande released an album by the same name as the hit song, portraying herself more than ever as a strong but emotionally troubled superstar. While the record turns the “bad bitch vibes” up to eleven and leans heavily on prevailing R&B and rap instrumentals, Grande’s musical style is still largely unoriginal and repetitive across the 42-minutes of music “thank u, next” presents.

In December of 2018, less than five months after the release of “Sweetener,” Grande returned to the music spotlight with her single “thank u, next,” which took audiences by storm, rocketing itself to platinum status the same week that the song’s music video took the record for most first-day views on YouTube, subsequently breaking the 100-million-views marker in just three days. Two months later, Grande released an album by the same name, portraying herself more than ever as a strong but emotionally troubled superstar. While the record turns the “bad bitch vibes” up to eleven and leans heavily on prevailing R&B and rap instrumentals, Grande’s musical style is still largely unoriginal and repetitive across the 42-minutes of music “thank u, next” presents.

The album begins with “imagine,” an uninspired pop ballad that barely invites listeners to go deeper in the track list. Grande’s singing is unimpressive and feels lost amongst the booming horns in the bridge. The squealing vocal line in the chorus is less impressive than it is grating, and does nothing for Grande’s overall style.

“imagine” is indicative of the album’s greatest downfall: the repetitive, unoriginal nature of the majority of the songs. Grande tries nothing new in the first eight of her 12 tracks on the record, keeping to her usual style of pitchy vocals, plucking instrumentals and heavy drums. “needy,” “NASA,” “imagine,” “ghostin” and “make up” are barely indistinguishable from one another, and are wholly uninteresting tracks. Even the title track, her platinum single, female-power-ballad “thank u, next” feels uninterestingly nestled within the other 11 tracks on the record. Grande choses to forego any features on the record, which contributes greatly to this feeling of monotony.

When Grande does step out of the album’s coarse, monotonous mood, the results barely stand above the throng. Tracks like “bloodline” and “fake smile” at least manage to be partially original. The booming horns on “bloodlines” shower the chorus with danceable rhythms, and the samples on the latter track break up the sexy, underground and echoing melodies of the verses, giving the song at least a unique feel against the rest of the record. On “7 rings,” Grande drops any semblance of making a pop song and makes a glossy, pitchy rap hit, making the track a high point for creativity and originality on the whole record. So too, the album closer “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored” follows suit, taking a much darker, sparser look at Grande’s style. This song again proves to be one of the album’s most enjoyable tracks.

The record’s most successful results are the sticky, repetitive chorus on tracks like “bloodline,” “bad idea” and “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored.” Outside of these choruses, though, there is little substance to be had. “in my head,” whose chorus is mildly enjoyable at best, feels like a rejected Halsey track produced by the Chainsmokers or another bland, electronica-heavy, autotune-smothered pop outfit. “bad idea,” perhaps the catchiest song on the record, still feels banal, but at the least has a fun, earworm chorus.

“thank u, next” attempts to show off Grande’s strong, feminine independence; and in that respect, it is largely successful. Grande, a larger-than-life figure herself, as her name implies, somehow feels more relatable amidst her regular recounting of the constant emotional struggles that have plagued her throughout the past year. The lyricism is direct but playful in describing Grande’s sprawling, lavish lifestyle that clashes brilliantly with her vulnerable state. These two antitheses craft a vision of Grande as a truly powerful, self-assured woman.

All said, Ariana Grande’s fifth full-length LP feels like little more than a cobbled-together cash grab to boost the success of the singer’s hit single by the same name as the album itself. “thank u, next” would have been much better serviced as a four to five-song EP, condensing the most interesting and memorable tracks off the record. Even Grande’s powerful, magnetic personality falls flat on the record’s 12 tracks, again feeling like a rushed effort to capitalize on musical trends and popular culture. Unlike her personality and popular image, her album is entirely bland and forgetful and will quickly be lost amongst other Top-40 radio-friendly singles.

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