Just months after the release of her last hit album, featuring iconic track, “God is a Woman,” Ariana Grande came back to impress fans again last weekend with the release of her new single, “Thank U, Next.” The new track is nothing out of character for Grande instrumentally, but the content shocks and amazes fans with its lessons of self love and moving on.
The new single describes the singer’s past failed relationships- and while most would write about kicking them to the curb, Ariana says she is incredibly grateful for all of her exes. This newfound respect and love is a much needed break from the ex-bashing narrative that is all too frequently sung in songs of this generation. And, so it seems, fans are receptive of this new concept. Just six days after its release last Saturday, the song has over fifty million plays on Spotify alone.
As the instrumental opens up the song, Grande begins lyricizing her past relationships, how they shaped her, and her gratitude for her exes, starting with Big Sean.
Sean Anderson, AKA Big Sean, dated Ariana in 2015, after the two met years prior while they were working on a track for Grande’s debut album, “Yours Truly.” The couple dated throughout 2015, but later split, allegedly having something to do with the age difference. Their relationship was incredibly publicized, and the break up came as somewhat of a shock to fans at the time.
Next, Grande talks about “songs about Ricky,” which are about Ricky Alvarez. Ariana and Ricky dated in late 2015, moving in to early 2016, after meeting while working together. Alvarez was one of Ariana’s backup dancers, which transformed into something more.
Since their relationship, Grande has disclosed that both “True Love” and “Moonlight” from her album “Dangerous Woman” were written about Ricky. The pair split in July 2016 after a year of companionship. The line about Ricky in “Thank U, Next” seems a little harsh at first listen: “Wrote some songs about Ricky/Now I listen and laugh.”
While seemingly brutal, Grande later commented that they were meant with the best intentions, and Alvarez received them gracefully.
After her breakup with Alvarez, Ariana delighted fans when she and Mac Miller publicly announced their relationship in August of 2016. For long time fans, some had wished they would get together since their iconic kiss in collaborative song “The Way,” released in 2013. Over the course of their two year relationship, several tracks memorialized their love.
Eventually, in May 2018, Ariana announced that the two had split ways. When he was charged with a DUI in later months, fans attempted to blame Ariana for Mac Miller’s latest problems with substance abuse. She publicly stated that she had spent many years trying to support his sobriety and balance.
A few months later, Malcolm McCormick, known as The Kid Mac Miller, died suddenly in his home from an overdose. In “Thank U, Next,” Ariana calls Miller an angel, and wishes she could thank him, after months of facing guilt trips and blame from the media for the rapper’s untimely and unfortunate death.
After her split with Mac Miller, Grande found love with Pete Davidson, a comedian on Saturday Night Live. They dated briefly, and soon after were engaged. The two split up in October, although Davidson has his own track on her 2018 album “Sweetener.” Her lyrics about Pete and their broken engagement are nothing but graceful in response to Davidson’s petty nature after their split.
The grace and thankful air surrounding “Thank U, Next’” is nothing out of character for Ariana Grande. She has always been seen as an empathetic woman, and this new single takes her gratitude to a new level. Pitchfork calls the single “an eloquent display of inner strength and incisive self-awareness,” which is not an unusual description based on Ariana’s sweet and sassy persona that she is known for.
After a horrific 18 months where Ariana watched 22 fans die in a terrorist attack at her Manchester concert, losing an ex, being blamed for his death, and also breaking off an engagement, Grande has all the while been putting on a brave face and writing anthems about strength and growth. If that isn’t inspirational, nothing is.
“Thank U, Next” is currently streaming on Spotify. Listen here.