Ariana Grande’s fifth album – and second in half a year – is the strongest work of her career so far; a brilliant blend of personal and crowd-pleasing pop perfection.
Sweetener, Ariana Grande’s previous album, was released to critical and commercial success less than six months ago. It is highly unusual for a popstar of Grande’s stature to follow up such a huge album so swiftly, but it probably feels like an eternity ago to her.
For those of you who have been living under a rock for the past six months, in the interim Grande’s ex-boyfriend, rapper Mac Miller, died of an overdose and she broke up with her fiancé, comedian Pete Davidson.
Shortly after announcing she would be taking a well-deserved break from music, she unexpectedly released confessional chart-topper thank u, next. It was the greatest song of her career thus far, a zeitgeist-capturing moment of brilliance which took her turbulent life and turned it into gold.
Thank u, next turned out to be the lead single from her new album of the same name; and somehow the album manages to live up to the mix of personal lyrics and pop perfection captured on that song. Rather than recovering privately, Grande focused on her work and turned her grief into art.
Thankfully, thank u, next is far from the downbeat heartbreak album you may have expected from Grande considering what she’s been through. Rather she has worked through her troubles by adopting a positive outlook and making some fun pop songs with her friends.
Like all of the best popstars, Grande oozes personality. You can tell that her music wasn’t written by other people and given to her, her personality shines more than ever on this album. Grande is a multifaceted person who isn’t as easily definable as other popstars. This is how she’s able to follow a song called needy with NASA, a song about needing space (get it).
The album expertly transitions from sex-positive pop on Bloodline to the raw emotion of Fake Smile without sounding lyrically or sonically inconsistent. All of the differing songs coalesce into a full package that displays Grande’s diversity as an artist.
Thank u, next is Ariana’s true moment to shine as both a megastar and a brilliant songwriter. The spotlight is focused solely on her, without the unnecessary distraction of rap features that appeared on her previous albums. We’re here to hear her story and her stunning vocals, and she does not disappoint.
Grande’s personal trauma has turned her into an underdog, a protagonist that the public is rooting for. She didn’t choose this responsibility, but it has been how she is viewed since the tragic bombing at her Manchester concert in 2017. From the ashes of this trauma Grande has emerged on the other side better than ever. Thank you for the great album Ariana, now what’s next? 8/10.