When life hands Ariana Grande lemons, she makes a slamming album


All eyes have been trained on the girl bearing the weight of a gunned-down concert, a whirlwind engagement imploding into a very public breakup, and an ex-boyfriend lost to suicide.

Yet, Ariana Grande has owned the burdens cutting into her shoulders with her ponytail swinging, heels strapped, and a biting, unbothered attitude laced in all her latest singles.

It seems Grande’s response to life unleashing a tide of adversity and tragedy was hitting the studio, releasing three singles within three months of each other (“thank u, next,” “imagine,” and “7 rings”) and now, as of last night, her fifth studio album just six months after her last.

Despite the impressively swift timeline, Grande sacrificed no quality in the album thank u, next, living up to the standards set by the smash hit promotional singles.

The album opens with the previously released “imagine,” a sweet, catchy track that showcases Grande’s signature strong voice. It transitions into a similarly sweet song, “needy,” with soothing, crooning background vocals to add to the already relaxing ballad. “needy” culminates with an almost vintage-sounding orchestral climax, making it one of my favorites on the album.

Ariana Grande has owned the burdens cutting into her shoulders with her ponytail swinging, heels strapped, and a biting, unbothered attitude laced in all her latest singles.”

The next song, “NASA” begins unsuspectingly but takes off with an unexpected but captivating beat drop, following Grande’s recent trend of minimalistic tracks to show off a catchy hook and solid vocals.

This stripped-down style of Grande’s continues with numbers like “fake smile,” “bad idea,” “make up,” and “in my head.” However, despite that cohesion, each of these tracks is very much their own.

“fake smile” begins with a unique choir intro that flows into a rhythmic stanza, which smoothly transitions to a pretty, melodic chorus supplemented with honest lyrics. “bad idea” is a little more electronic, which isn’t my particular cup of tea but would surely appeal to fans of Grande’s older music, and it is, admittedly, fairly catchy. “make up” restored my approval with a fun, playful melody, and “in my head” was also a decent track with an interesting, processed, beat-oriented sound.

“bloodline” and “ghostin” are two very different songs but are some of the album’s strongest. While the aforementioned tracks certainly follow Grande’s recent minimalist production, “bloodline” most definitely does not. After a short, spoken intro, it dives right into an upbeat rhythm instrumented with bumping horns. It’s catchy, addicting, and a sure hit.

“ghostin,” on the other hand, is a little more solemn. It definitely possesses a bit of a different sound from the consistent bops, but I loved that departure. Grande pairs extra-breathy vocals with airy, dreamy instrumentation for a lulling, soothing track of similar aesthetic to that of Conan Grey or Frank Ocean.

Of course, “thank u, next” and “7 rings” were on the album; in spite of their massive mainstream popularity, I still think they’re some catchy songs with commendably brazen, brave lyrics.

The album finally closes with “break up with your girlfriend, im bored,” an interesting track fit for its interesting title. Sonically, its similar to “7 rings,” “fake smile,” and “in my head,” and follows that stripped-down pattern with processed production. Nevertheless, it still sounds unique to the ear and is a solid, upbeat song to close the album.

Overall, thank u, next is an impressively cohesive body of work that still simultaneously provides a variety of sounds. Her commitment to her work in the face of heartbreak is commendable, and the icing on the cake is that the product of it all was a meritable album. Through each song, authentic, vulnerable lyrics emerge from the sonically striking music.

In the fashion of a true artist, Grande has shown the world that hardship is no match to her craft and, more importantly, her strength.