Ariana Grande - Thank U, Next

90

Tiny Mix Tapes

Ariana Grande
thank u, next

[Republic; 2019]

Rating: 4.5/5

I hope you find love. Don’t let that be too much to ask. “Why can’t you imagine a world like that?”

Not love like reductive metaphor, no string of useless monogamies. Not unless you like it like that. Not love that restricts or diminishes or punishes or inflicts. Let it be painful when it must; let’s not call it love when all it wants is hurt. Not love that bores or gelatinizes and, please, not love that clutches you toward bruises and whispers you, too much or want no more in your ear. “If love be rough with you, be rough with love!” And: “I’ma scream and shout for what I love.”

Let’s hope we find love. Because we heave through bed sheets at middays, feel weights and debts of all our bad days pressing our sternums, gauzing our throats. We have lost. We will lose. How can we want past that loss? Charlotte Brontë wrote:”The evils that now and then wring a groan from my heart lie in my position not that I am a single woman and likely to remain a single woman, but because I am a lonely woman and likely to be lonely.” Or, Ari: “I can’t fake another smile/ I can’t fake like I’m alright.”

A breath from a cracked car window, a squeeze on the shoulder when we get on the dance floor, thank u, next is the sound of hoping toward love. It’s the bend and the flex, the swerve of unfucking towards re-formation. It’s the new definitive song from a still-evolving voice that continues to render taking care as a viable solution to all the loss we feel. Like lip imprints on cheeks you already forgot, like a Brontë novel, its romance is of hauntings and hangovers, the holdovers of old traumas and the transmutation of scar tissue into feathered boas pulled tight like strong sinew. thank u, next is wanting a future.

It begins with the bass boom of romance, the bubbly echoes of fantasy in “imagine,” and it ends with a little kiss-off, a number left in lipstick: “Say I’m trippin’ and it ain’t right/ But you without me ain’t nice.” Is that an *NSYNC nod? Are we biting The Sound of Music? Sure, but sweetened and wobbled, converted into raw material for Ariana’s want. thank u, next sometimes sounds similar to last year’s Sweetener, but where that felt titanic and of a massive world, this lies in the sheets and words we live in every day. The hooks are just as sticky, but the sounds feel low and hot, woozy, like bright-colored tapes left all day in the sun. The biggest “imagine” gets are some strings at the end. “needy” is woozy synth, a soft snap, a melted popsicle, and “make up” plinks a warped kids’ piano, a bubblegum’s coo. “NASA” and the title track cruise inscrutable grooves but never approach the sheer force of “Breathin” or “No Tears Left to Cry.”

Because thank u, next builds on Sweetener by switching modes of scale. It’s less about looking at the world than being by yourself, more focused on the textures of memory than our actions stemming from it. “fake smile” validates being how you feel, which is still a revolutionary thing to sing about. “needy” admits to the way past traumas can impact our personality (“Sorry if I’m up and down a lot/ Sorry that I think I’m not enough/ And sorry if I say sorry way too much”) without ever apologizing for taking up space in the first place. Joyously, again and again, thank u, next establishes boundaries and radicalizes space-keeping as self-care. “NASA” knows loving heals: “I can’t really miss you if I’m with you/ And when I miss you, it’ll change the way I kiss you,” but it also knows nothing feels as good as the space you know you need: “Baby, you know time apart is beneficial/ It’s like I’m the universe and you’ll be N-A-S-A.” That’s a very important thing to hear in a pop song!

That space and scale translates to its instrument: thank u, next is also Ariana’s most stunning vocal album. Always bombastic and inclined toward ever-reaching virtuosity, on these 12 tracks, that voice bups and gulps and fries and grinds, low yuh yuh’s and guttural slides and then, when your ear’s right there, an instantaneous shock of vaporizing sound. Taken next to Sweetener, thank u, next is the sound of that voice finding space to explore and room to evolve in. Like the tracks laid by her best sisters, the most recent is the best until whatever’s next. This isn’t full-bore deconstruction à la Hannah or SOPHIE, nor is it formal reconstitution of an old alphabet in new letters, like Carly or Charli. thank u, next is a younger cousin to 1989 (explosion of self) and ANTI (redefinition of voice). By encompassing both Taylor’s transformation of memory to grand pop statement and Rihanna’s reinvention of voice in space, thank u, next exists as a text of genuine pop futurability. If you listen to the title track, you will feel 40-feet tall. You will feel capable of dealing with each next day. This feeling should not be discounted.

You will not feel impervious. The corridors are not despairing, but they are haunted. Emily Brontë wrote, in Wuthering Heights, “I’ve dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas; they’ve gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the colour of my mind.” The point of thank u, next (there isn’t a point, it’s a pop record, dance and love) isn’t to remain unaltered by the ghosts and echoes. The calls to self-love only ring as radical so long as they exist in tandem with the loss before. Ghosts are just fantasies in reverse (“He just comes to visit me/ When I’m dreaming every now and then”) and an ex-anything is just proof of the impact our self and voice has made. Ex- implies its opposite: next.

I hope you find love next. Love, like pop songs, is an improper rendering of a set of untranslateable data; tattoo your mistranslations and imbalances to your body and wave them in the air. Only in something like love, something near next, can we learn to empathize with others, to empathize with ourselves. thank u, next sees our ghosts, feels our echoes, and motions toward a future. Whitney called it “the greatest love of all”; Ari hiccups and hums: “thank you, next.”

Wed Feb 20 06:00:26 CET 2019

90

Tiny Mix Tapes

Ariana Grande
thank u, next

[Republic; 2019]

Rating: 4.5/5

I hope you find love. Don’t let that be too much to ask. “Why can’t you imagine a world like that?”

Not love like reductive metaphor, no string of useless monogamies. Not unless you like it like that. Not love that restricts or diminishes or punishes or inflicts. Let it be painful when it must; let’s not call it love when all it wants is hurt. Not love that bores or gelatinizes and, please, not love that clutches you toward bruises and whispers you, too much or want no more in your ear. “If love be rough with you, be rough with love!” And: “I’ma scream and shout for what I love.”

Let’s hope we find love. Because we heave through bed sheets at middays, feel weights and debts of all our bad days pressing our sternums, gauzing our throats. We have lost. We will lose. How can we want past that loss? Charlotte Brontë wrote:”The evils that now and then wring a groan from my heart lie in my position not that I am a single woman and likely to remain a single woman, but because I am a lonely woman and likely to be lonely.” Or, Ari: “I can’t fake another smile/ I can’t fake like I’m alright.”

A breath from a cracked car window, a squeeze on the shoulder when we get on the dance floor, thank u, next is the sound of hoping toward love. It’s the bend and the flex, the swerve of unfucking towards re-formation. It’s the new definitive song from a still-evolving voice that continues to render taking care as a viable solution to all the loss we feel. Like lip imprints on cheeks you already forgot, like a Brontë novel, its romance is of hauntings and hangovers, the holdovers of old traumas and the transmutation of scar tissue into feathered boas pulled tight like strong sinew. thank u, next is wanting a future.

It begins with the bass boom of romance, the bubbly echoes of fantasy in “imagine,” and it ends with a little kiss-off, a number left in lipstick: “Say I’m trippin’ and it ain’t right/ But you without me ain’t nice.” Is that an *NSYNC nod? Are we biting The Sound of Music? Sure, but sweetened and wobbled, converted into raw material for Ariana’s want. thank u, next sometimes sounds similar to last year’s Sweetener, but where that felt titanic and of a massive world, this lies in the sheets and words we live in every day. The hooks are just as sticky, but the sounds feel low and hot, woozy, like bright-colored tapes left all day in the sun. The biggest “imagine” gets are some strings at the end. “needy” is woozy synth, a soft snap, a melted popsicle, and “make up” plinks a warped kids’ piano, a bubblegum’s coo. “NASA” and the title track cruise inscrutable grooves but never approach the sheer force of “Breathin” or “No Tears Left to Cry.”

Because thank u, next builds on Sweetener by switching modes of scale. It’s less about looking at the world than being by yourself, more focused on the textures of memory than our actions stemming from it. “fake smile” validates being how you feel, which is still a revolutionary thing to sing about. “needy” admits to the way past traumas can impact our personality (“Sorry if I’m up and down a lot/ Sorry that I think I’m not enough/ And sorry if I say sorry way too much”) without ever apologizing for taking up space in the first place. Joyously, again and again, thank u, next establishes boundaries and radicalizes space-keeping as self-care. “NASA” knows loving heals: “I can’t really miss you if I’m with you/ And when I miss you, it’ll change the way I kiss you,” but it also knows nothing feels as good as the space you know you need: “Baby, you know time apart is beneficial/ It’s like I’m the universe and you’ll be N-A-S-A.” That’s a very important thing to hear in a pop song!

That space and scale translates to its instrument: thank u, next is also Ariana’s most stunning vocal album. Always bombastic and inclined toward ever-reaching virtuosity, on these 12 tracks, that voice bups and gulps and fries and grinds, low yuh yuh’s and guttural slides and then, when your ear’s right there, an instantaneous shock of vaporizing sound. Taken next to Sweetener, thank u, next is the sound of that voice finding space to explore and room to evolve in. Like the tracks laid by her best sisters, the most recent is the best until whatever’s next. This isn’t full-bore deconstruction à la Hannah or SOPHIE, nor is it formal reconstitution of an old alphabet in new letters, like Carly or Charli. thank u, next is a younger cousin to 1989 (explosion of self) and ANTI (redefinition of voice). By encompassing both Taylor’s transformation of memory to grand pop statement and Rihanna’s reinvention of voice in space, thank u, next exists as a text of genuine pop futurability. If you listen to the title track, you will feel 40-feet tall. You will feel capable of dealing with each next day. This feeling should not be discounted.

You will not feel impervious. The corridors are not despairing, but they are haunted. Emily Brontë wrote, in Wuthering Heights, “I’ve dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas; they’ve gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the colour of my mind.” The point of thank u, next (there isn’t a point, it’s a pop record, dance and love) isn’t to remain unaltered by the ghosts and echoes. The calls to self-love only ring as radical so long as they exist in tandem with the loss before. Ghosts are just fantasies in reverse (“He just comes to visit me/ When I’m dreaming every now and then”) and an ex-anything is just proof of the impact our self and voice has made. Ex- implies its opposite: next.

I hope you find love next. Love, like pop songs, is an improper rendering of a set of untranslateable data; tattoo your mistranslations and imbalances to your body and wave them in the air. Only in something like love, something near next, can we learn to empathize with others, to empathize with ourselves. thank u, next sees our ghosts, feels our echoes, and motions toward a future. Whitney called it “the greatest love of all”; Ari hiccups and hums: “thank you, next.”

Wed Feb 20 06:00:26 CET 2019

90

Drowned In Sound

Once upon a time there was a rule that eerie, ironic, crackled samples were reserved for LPs from boys with out of tune guitars, who were granted the secrets of intellectualism only via their epic pain. Therefore, Ariana Grande’s choice to make thank u, next one of the most sonically interesting records of its type ever recorded, littered with warped synths, clicks, pops and esoteric whistles, is one that overflows with big dick energy.



We’re lulled into the opener ‘imagine’ with little synthetic footsteps. Tinkling along the path, thank u, next rises over us like sunrise – and takes till 1:14 before we’re ready to dive in and taste the tones of Ari’s fifth offering. We’re dropped into the centre of the music – ‘imagine’ opening its arms to us, a smooth RnB hug. This opens up the album thematically, and from hereon in we gallop through Ari’s day dreams, her nightmares and her endless imagination – all littered with thick emotion, and brave, cold honesty.

‘needy’ takes us right to the centre of the message: “I admit that I’m a little messed up …. I can be needy, way too damn needy” with dramatic violins, and angelic vocals. ‘NASA’ begins with a crinkled sample of her nanna (yes, really) that launches into a foot taping pop ditty, “Give you the whole world and I’ma need space”. Glorious trumpets announce the opening of ‘bloodline’ with heart-breaking lyrics “ain’t no need to apologise, but you gotta let this shit go”. ‘fake smile’ continues – a low level crackle, odd mechanical whistles – a message of the duality laced up around survival ‘I won’t say I’m feeling fine, after what I’ve been through I ain’t lyin’’ and “if I’m hot I ain’t gonna lie about it”.

However, if there’s one enduring image you’ll always remember from thank u, next’, it’s of ‘ghostin’’. Again, heavy on angelic synths, Ari’s lonely lyrical scream echoes out from the bed where she’s curled up, back to back with fiancé Pete Davidson, sobbing silently over ex Mac Miller’s death. “You’ve been so understanding you’ve been so good, and I’m putting you though more than I ever should, and I’m hating myself cos you don’t want to admit that it hurts you”. It’s going to be okay, she thinks “we’ll get through this, we’ll get past this, I’m a girl with, a whole lot of baggage”. Reader, they didn’t.

It makes sense then, that now we’ve had our hearts ripped out from our chests, we’re launched via intermediary track ‘in my head’ into three closing statements of strength through pain. ‘7 rings’ (“been through some bad things I should be a sad bitch, who would have thought it turn me to a savage”) ‘thank, u next’ and ‘break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored’ are anthems to confidence and female friendships – to processing sound and fury and carrying on with that big dick energy despite everything else that’s tried to bring you down.

There’s a special way that trauma informs a music release. You only need to look at the track names here to see that Ari’s fifth offering is undoubtedly more confessional and exposed than her others. ‘needy’ ‘fake smile’ ‘bad idea’ ‘ghostin’ – all echoes of a woman who faced a most terrible line of tragedies and found that it’s okay to be a lil’ bit messed up by them. Occasionally, rarely, a record comes along that restores our faith. If this is the future of pop-music, then sign me up; and oh – did I mention you’ll leave this experience about 70 percent cooler? Thank you, Ari – I can’t wait to see where you go next. I do wish you’d use some capital letters though.

![106057](http://dis.resized.images.s3.amazonaws.com/540x310/106057.png)

Mon Feb 25 14:03:29 CET 2019

80

The Guardian

Just six months after acclaimed album Sweetener, Grande further unpicks her recent emotional devastation – and finally finds her own voice

One criticism levelled at Ariana Grande is that while her gymnastic, Mariah Carey-level vocal is impressive, it also acts like a gilded cage. On her first three albums, peppered as they were with gold-plated bangers, Grande acted more as an athlete, flexing her vocal muscles on songs precision-tooled by the likes of producer Max Martin for chart dominance, while revealing very little about the artist behind them. If Taylor Swift’s lyrics demanded to be decoded, Grande’s faded into the background, not helped by her notorious problems with enunciation.

All that changed on last year’s Sweetener, an album streaked with hard-worn positivity while haunted by a terrorist attack at Grande’s 2017 Manchester concert that killed 23 people. “Here is my bleeding heart, and here is a trap beat behind it,” is how she described it to Fader.

Related: Ariana Grande: a beacon of resilience in her worst and biggest year

Continue reading...

Fri Feb 08 13:55:58 CET 2019

79

Pitchfork

Released five months after the catharsis of Sweetener, these songs of affirmation feel lighter, freer, and more fun, carried effortlessly by Grande’s undeniable voice.

Mon Feb 11 07:00:00 CET 2019

60

The Guardian

(Republic)
In the wake of huge traumas, Ariana Grande has pumped out the hits, challenged the pop machine – and now releases an album she rustled up in two weeks

Once, Ariana Grande was a versatile pop singer whose visual signature – the swinging ponytail – defined her in a crowded marketplace. I saw the US singer’s 2017 tour a couple of nights before the bombing at her Manchester Arena show, and back then, Grande was merely good – a brighter pop operative than most – if a little breathy.

Since then, she has become a lodestar for how complicated contemporary life can be, and a bona fide role model for how to carry oneself through it with the correct mixture of defiance, humour and sensitivity. Grande would roll her eyes at the idea of saintliness, but Rolling Stone magazine – riffing on the title of her recent single, God Is a Woman – declared: God Is This Woman.

Continue reading...

Sat Feb 16 15:00:13 CET 2019