Despite having to endure the worst year of her life and just releasing an album less than six months ago, Ariana Grande shows it doesn’t take time to create an incredible album – it takes courage to defy the pain and channel that into your craft.

Grande released her fifth studio album, thank u, next – a 12-track thriller taking listeners on the journey through a dark patch in her life – on Friday. Grande co-wrote every single track on the album, and it goes to show her finest work comes when she’s behind all of it.

It’s been a troublesome past couple of years for Grande. The album comes just five months and 22 days after her fourth LP, Sweetener, which seems to correlate with the bombing of her Manchester concert that occurred on May 22, 2017. Grande’s ex-boyfriend, rapper Mac Miller, died of an overdose in September and People announced less than a month later that Grande and then-fiancé, comedian Pete Davidson had broken up. But no fear, Grande said – she decided to ignite the pain and transform it into breathtaking music.

Grande said in an interview with Billboard she wants to live out her music career being as true to herself as possible: “I don’t want to do what people tell me to do. I don’t want to conform to the pop star agenda … I want to be able to do what is authentic and honest and natural. It’s the only way that I’ve been able to survive.” 

That notion may just be the key to this masterful album. There are a couple hiccups with the monotonous “make up” and the strange yet catchy “7 rings,” but as a whole, thank u, next is a stunning album. Emotion-laden vocals, profound lyricism and a diverse array of instruments allow this emotional musical journey to ultimately show that it’s truly possible to recover from even the worst of times.

Here’s a breakdown of the best five tracks on thank u, next:

5. “bloodline”

Taking a jab at one of Grande’s exes without explicitly stating his name is “bloodline,” an instrumentally jazzy track about not wanting to commit to something serious after being permanently damaged from past relationships. The song begins with a recording of Grande’s grandmother, Marjorie, who states from Grande’s perspective that she’s looking to better herself, not for an exclusive relationship, at the moment.. Grande asserts she isn’t searching for her soulmate: “No, we won’t be talking the next day / I ain’t got nothin’ to say / I ain’t lookin’ for my one true love / Yeah, that ship sailed away.” Grande’s smooth vocals combined with the ravishing brass and bass line is infectious, and will force all listeners to involuntarily tap their foot to the rhythm.

4. “thank u, next”

The song that started it all is deservingly on this list for its endearing message of self-love. Grande names and thanks each of her notable exes, saying they taught her valuable lessons, but she’s ready to move on and focus on all she really needs: herself. The simple yet effective synths enhance Grande’s plea that she’ll remain positive even after all the hardships she’s had to sustain: “I’ve got so much love / Got so much patience / I’ve learned from the pain / I turned out amazing.” The empowering anthem serves as a reminder to find and embrace the good in every situation, no matter how much agony it once caused.

3. “fake smile”

“fake smile” starts off with a chilling sample of the 1964 track “After Laughter (Comes Tears)” by Wendy Rene. Grande reveals throughout the song that despite the endless affection she knows her fans and loved ones have for her, she can’t even fake contentment anymore. Guided by a subtle beat and bass line, Grande displays her immense vulnerability: “I can’t fake another smile / I can’t fake like I’m alright / And I won’t say I’m feeling fine / After what I been through, I can’t lie.” Grande is telling listeners that not all celebrities live consistently glamorous lives; they feel just as much pain and sorrow at times as everyone else because they’re human, too.

2. “needy”

The message behind “needy” is simple: Grande needs constant reassurance because of the diffidence she’s developed from all she’s been through. Beautiful backing vocals make the downcast lyrics shine: “I can be needy / Tell me how good it feels to be needed / I can be needy; so hard to please me / I know it feels so good to be needed.” Grande goes on to say: “You can go ahead and call me selfish / But after all this damage, I can’t help it” – admitting she knows she’s a little all over the place currently, but she’s trying her best. Dispirited strings brilliantly close out the track, giving the listener a glimpse into the unavoidable despair that wallows in Grande’s mind.

1. “ghostin”

“ghostin” is as wholly sublime as a song can be, and there aren’t enough words to explain just how incredible it is. Perfected by eerie synths, entrancing strings and brilliant backing vocals, Grande is talking directly to Davidson when they were still engaged, explaining how difficult she has found it to accept that Miller has died. Grande reassures Davidson he’s doing a great job supporting Grande as she mourns: “You been so understanding; you been so good / And I’m putting you through more than one ever should / And I’m hating myself cause you don’t want to admit that it hurts you.” Grande goes on to promise: “We’ll get through this / We’ll get past this / I’m a girl with a whole lot of baggage / But I love you; we’ll get past this.” The song fades out with captivating harmonies, synths and an orchestral section, and it’s impossible not to feel the sentiment in Grande’s sensational vocals. “ghostin” is undoubtedly the top song of 2019 so far, so naturally, it’s the best on thank u, next.

Rating: 8.5/10

@bre_offenberger

bo844517@ohio.edu

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