Music

Ariana Grande’s ‘Thank U, Next’ Is A Painful, Preening, No-F*cks-Given Smash

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If I’m hurt, I ain’t gon’ lie about it / Arms crossed with the attitude, lips pouted — Ariana Grande, “Fake Smile”

Have you tried listening to “No Tears Left To Cry” recently? Though it only came out about a year ago, the song sounds like it could be decades old, especially in comparison with the new music that Ariana has been releasing since she dropped her glossy, satisfied fourth album, Sweetener, this summer, the album’s happiness itself standing in defiance to the terror attack she and her fans endured in Manchester in 2017. Even Grande humorously commented on the song’s place in her discography on Twitter last fall: “remember when i was like hey i have no tears left to cry and the universe was like HAAAAAAAAA bitch u thought.”

By the time that tweet surfaced, Grande had just confirmed that a whole new album would be following up her late 2018 smash single, “Thank U, Next,” a tempest-teacup pop song reacting to the dissolution of her engagement with Pete Davidson, and the tragic death of her longtime ex-boyfriend, Mac Miller. Instead of pain or pettiness, the song resounded with self-love, and, compassion — an element that’s been all but nonexistent in popular music, or elsewhere, in American culture of late.

Mixed in with her graciousness toward others was a fixation on helping and healing herself that stood out plainly, by making herself the center — instead of the men involved — Ari was sparking a quiet revolution. Pop music is one of the few places where women are able to express themselves freely, on their own terms and in their own language, and Grande has taken that element of naked, selfish, preening self-expression to its magnificent peak on the subsequent album, Thank U, Next, out last Friday.

Though Thank U, Next and Sweetener are roughly the same length (41 and 47 minutes respectively), Grande fit several years worth of emotions succinctly on three tracks less than her 2018 album did. Though Thank U, Next and Sweetener are roughly the same length (41 and 47 minutes respectively), Grande succinctly fit several years worth of emotion into three tracks less than her 2018 album contained.

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