Thank U Ariana Grande for saving pop music

Singer goes from popular-ish to full-blown megastar with fifth studio album

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Ariana Grande performs during her "Dangerous Woman" Tour in February 2017. 

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Ariana Grande is hard at work. Less than six months after the release of her fourth album, “Sweetener,” she managed to score two Grammy nominations, two number one singles and release her fifth studio album, “Thank U, Next.” In an interview with Billboard Magazine she said, “My dream has always been to be — obviously not a rapper — but, like, to put out music in the way that a rapper does. I feel like there are certain standards that pop women are held to that men aren't.” Grande not only challenges these standards—she shatters them. 

True to her word, Grande started the “Thank U, Next” era by surprise releasing the title track of the album in November of 2018. In doing so, she not only released music like a rapper but reimagined pop music in the process. Grande is the biggest star in the music industry right now, and she knows it. From turning down a performance at the Grammys to being so culturally relevant that singing about her hair sparks internet debates and inspires think pieces, this newly discovered self-assuredness in her celebrity and artistry shines through on the album.

The LP finds Grande at her most creative. Co-writing and producing every song, the singer crafts her most cohesive and honest body of work to date. On the album, Grande collaborates with R&B singer-songwriters Tayla Parx and Victoria Monet, as well as pop hit maker, Max Martin. Using well executed samples and ethereal outros, Grande avoids the major blunder of “Sweetener”— having multiple producers creating an album with two different sounds — and perfectly creates her own blend of pop, trap bangers. Lyrically, the “Into You” songstress trades in the saccharine lyrics of “Sweetener” tracks such as “R.E.M.” and “No Tears Left To Cry,” for raw honesty and confidence. 

The stand out tracks on the album are “Fake Smile” and “Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored.” The former is about Grande deciding to stop masquerading and embrace all her emotions. With lines like, “I’m happy for the love and all the above / If I’m being honest I done been through way too much” and “It’s getting hard for them to shock me / But every now and then it’s shocking / Don’t blame me”, the song is the most vulnerable moment on the LP. It begins with a sample of “After Laughter” by Wendy Rene and leads into a beat drop. Mixing the throwback sound of previous songs like “Tattooed Heart” and “Leave me Lonely” and current popular music, Grande finds her sonic sweet spot.    

“Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored” is the dark and sexy closer of the album. The track interpolates “It Makes Me Ill” by NSYNC on its second verse. Lyrically, it tells of Grande attempting to convince a man to leave his girlfriend to get with her. With the line “Took one f— n' look at your face (Hmm ) / Now I wanna know how you taste (Mmm-mmm),” and the clever double entendre of “Practically on my knees,” the track stands out as one of the sexiest songs on “Thank U, Next,” and in the discography of Grande.

At 25-years-old, Ariana Grande has become a household name — one to be screamed, not shouted from the mountain tops. “Thank U, Next” is not just a follow up to “Sweetener,” it is her magnum opus. Grande continually pushes the boundaries of what it means to be a female popstar in a male dominated industry, all the while showing both artistic growth and personal maturity in her new releases. Ariana Grande is saving pop music, and her listeners say, Thank U. 

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