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Grande recovers from traumatic times with post-breakup album ‘thank u, next’

Courtesy of Universal Music Group
Courtesy of Universal Music Group

Ariana Grande has long since shed her youthfully sunny disposition following her debut album Yours Truly in 2013. In fact, Grande’s new persona gives momentum to her latest work, thank u, next — an ode to the roller coasters of both life and emotion.

The launch of Sweetener in 2018 was the first stop along Grande’s journey of self-growth and transformation.

The album marked her return to pop after the 2017 suicide bombing of Grande’s concert in England’s Manchester Arena, which caused 22 deaths and deeply affected the singer.

A softer version of Grande is evident throughout the tracklist; “breathin” especially reveals her struggle.

“Just keep breathin’ and breathin’ and breathin’ and breathin,’” Grande repeats over and over to convince the world — and herself — that her period of revival will soon come. In a sense, this foreshadows both the positivity and dark times ahead for her.

Grande released Sweetener less than one month before the death of her former boyfriend, rapper Mac Miller. While she grieved, Grande ended her whirlwind, four-month-long engagement to comedian Pete Davidson.

The singer found herself in another difficult time, but this was again a test of her strength. When Grande released the single “thank u, next,” off her new 2019 album, it seemed as if she was bidding farewell to her past — and any future instance of negativity.

The album thank u, next fuses 12 separate tracks together to tell a story of Grande as a powerful woman, fraught with difficulties navigating her life.

Grande chooses to stick to her dreamlike and indie-infused pop for instrumentals on the album, but mimics faint sounds of rap on several tracks. Her references to The Sound of Music’s “My Favorite Things” on the track “7 rings” bring distinction above the rest of her album.

thank u, next opens with “imagine,” a song that integrates fantasy with reality, as Grande alludes to a life with no limits and a world with no boundaries — a place strictly for love.

The themes of love, fantasy and lust tend to be the main players in the game of life on Grande’s album. The songs “needy” and “NASA” are the two tracks that follow and build upon the life that is romanticized in “imagine,” but the narrative of the album begins to flip once “bloodline” and “fake smile” start to play.

Both songs start with other voices — samplings from Grande’s grandmother and singer Wendy Rene. The song “fake smile” introduces Rene’s lyrics, “After laughter comes tears,” which possibly allude to the turning point of the album.

While the track “thank u, next” does a good job of outlining the timeline of Grande’s past relationships and heartache, “7 rings” is the artist’s final transformation. This is where Grande realizes her true power in being a woman and in being a pop artist.

“7 rings” starts off mimicking “My Favorite Things” and fans are met with child-like nostalgia. A younger Grande resurfaces between the soft and delicate beats that line the beginning of the song.

However, as Grande begins to describe her luxurious lifestyle — “My wrist, stop watchin’, my neck is flossy / Make big deposits, my gloss is poppin’” — the beat starts to resemble that of a trap song. The overlapping of different voices as Grande sings also triggers an angelic setting, familiar from Grande’s older work.

thank u, next does not sugarcoat Grande’s true nature or feelings, but instead reveals her annoyance and acceptance of the many disappointments in love and life. It’s Grande’s comeback album, her revenge to those who doubted her, her epitome of emotion and her acknowledgement of the hard times she has faced.

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