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“thank u, next” Shatters Records, Not Expectations

While packed with plenty of magic moments, Ariana Grande's latest release lacks consistency.

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“thank u, next” Shatters Records, Not Expectations

Kacey Connolly, Writer

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It was only six months ago when Ariana Grande dropped Grammy-winning album “Sweetener.” Exactly five months and 22 days later, the pop star shook the music industry with another, “thank u, next,” awarding her two number one albums in less than a year.

Given the heart-rending events that struck Grande’s life back in September, many fans impatiently awaited this new album in hopes of finding lyrics that opened a door into the singers deepest feelings. What we got instead was half an album of really good songs and half an album of mediocre pop tunes.

It’s no question Grande is a talented artist. Her strong voice and knack for relatable, female-empowering lyrics sets her above most others. She’s on a fast train to peak success, and it probably isn’t stopping anytime soon. However, this doesn’t hide the fact that her newest edition of tracks lacks consistency.

Of the 12 songs, a few are genius, a few are average and a few are absolutely terrible. Along with this, each song seems to have at least one other song on the album that completely contradicts it.

The first single of the album was the track “thank you, next” which drips with independence and self-love. Grande sings lyrics like, “Plus, I met someone else, We havin’ better discussions, I know they say I move on too fast, But this one gon’ last, ‘Cause her name is Ari, And I’m so good with that” and “I’ll be thanking my dad, ‘Cause she grew from the drama” in regard to her mother. The entire message of this song is about needing yourself the most, loving yourself the most and being OK with that. As the first taste of an album to come, I was fully expecting all tracks to lead this way.

It wasn’t until I read the lyrics to Grande’s song “imagine” that I realized it held the exact opposite connotations that “thank u, next” did. On one hand, we have a song that defeats the idea of needing somebody rather than depicting some type of love story like many other pop songs do. On the other hand, we have a song with lyrics like, “Knew you were perfect after the first kiss, Took a deep breath like, “Ooh,” Feels like forever, baby, I never thought that it would be you,” with a chorus that just repeats, “Imagine a world like that,” reiterating the idea that Grande is longing for a world where she can be with this lover, painting a counter picture to the self-empowering image portrayed in “thank u, next.”

These two songs aren’t the only examples of this inconsistency either. Grande goes straight from “needy” to “NASA,” a track that claims, “I can be needy, tell me how good it feels to be needed” followed by another where she sings, “I’d rather be alone tonight, You can say ‘I love you’ through the phone tonight,” referencing two adverse emotions once again.

Aside from paradoxical songs, Grande’s inconsistency is sealed with how she uses her voice. As an artist who has one of the most distinguishable voices that reaches octaves well beyond average, she often times sings as if she has no depth. I found a few songs on this album compact with deeply emotional lyrics but sang as if it were merely a trendy pop song. In possibly one of her most relatable tracks on the album, “bad idea” discusses needing someone to numb the pain of heartache. Grande writes lyrics like “Need somebody, gimme something I can feel, But, boy, don’t trip, you know this isn’t real, You should know I’m temporary,” that resonate strongly with young female adults struggling with intimacy and love. What rests uneasy with me, however, is the fact that when I first listened to this song it almost sounded distasteful and her words rang hollow until I actually read them.

This same pattern is established in others and she closes her album with a superficial “break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored” which challenges every other song she has about female empowerment and self-love with materialism and selfishness.

Despite the lack of depth in some of her songs, it wouldn’t be completely inconsistent without a few bangers mixed in. Grande really impresses with tracks like “fake smile” and “ghostin” where she mixes her pop style with a more serious tone while belting out profound lyrics symbolizing the “baggage” she carries with her.

Email Kacey at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @kaceyconnolly1.

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“thank u, next” Shatters Records, Not Expectations