I’m going to be honest with you— I don’t really know how to talk about this album. I’ve been a fan of Ariana Grande since before she even released an album. I used to listen to her YouTube covers obsessively, eagerly awaiting the day she released her own music.
And she never disappointed. Well, that is, until last year with the release of Sweetener. I know it just won a Grammy, but also… how? That was an awful record. I gave it a terrible review and included it on my Worst Albums of 2018 list. That’s how much I hated it. Had Grande really lost her spark?
Evidently, the answer is an emphatic no. Barely six months later, Grande turned around and released the best album of her career: Thank U, Next.
So why can’t I figure out how to discuss it? Is my critical brain broken? Is my regular brain broken? Do I just not feel like writing?
Okay, let’s give this review a good old college try. Thank U, Next is a masterpiece of pop/R&B/trap. There’s not a bad song on this record. A skip, sure. But nothing outright bad. This is a far cry from the disaster than was Sweetener.
Of course, Thank U, Next would be a revelation without taking any of her previous work into consideration. It’s a celebration of sexuality, a story of introspection, and a step towards a new phase in life. This album is a journey.
I have yet to pick a favorite. “Bloodline” has bombastic horns and “Bad Idea” is all minor, yet both are able to convey the idea of casual sex. “Break Up With your Girlfriend Cuz I’m Bored” is slinky and smooth, somehow both lofty and relatable.
“Ghostin” is heartbreaking, one of Grande’s most personal songs. “Needy” and “NASA” are polar opposites, but somehow both believably describe the same person. “Fake Smile” is about letting yourself feel what you feel and not pretending otherwise.
“In My Head” is about accepting that your image of someone is false. “Thank U, Next” is the most mature break-up song I’ve ever heard. “Imagine” takes cues from R&B, while “7 Rings” takes them from trap.
The only song I don’t really care for is “Make Up.” It’s not bad, but it’s not great either. It’s an aggressively middling song— the one exception to the album’s otherwise flawlessness.
Grande sounds fantastic on every song, whether borderline rapping or hitting whistle tones. What’s more, this feels like an Ariana Grande record. You can really sense her passion and personality coming through every second.
The production is also great. Grande and her producers found a great balance between real and midi instruments as well as synths and beats. Highlights include the horns on “Bloodline” and the theatrical strings on “Bad Idea.”
Grande’s been the subject of controversy recently. She’s been accused of appropriating black and Japanese cultures. I don’t have much to say on the subject, mostly because I think she’s trying to appreciate rather than appropriate. She just doesn’t always go about it in the best way nor does she always adequately respond to criticism. I hope she does better in the future, but also don’t feel it takes away from my enjoyment of her music.
All I know is I’ve been listening to Thank U, Next almost non-stop since it came out last week. It is, emphatically, Ariana Grande’s best album to date. Thank you, Ariana Grande. Please don’t move on to the next era just yet.
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