By: Patricia Kusumaningtyas |
Wherever Ariana Grande goes, the media follows. A consequence of having a well-renowned career in pop music is having everyone follow every step of your life—some to the point of obsession. Whenever a singer with significant public visibility of their personal life releases a song, there will definitely be articles floating on the Internet guessing the real-life inspiration behind that song. Some artists might address it subtly, some not at all. But it is pretty rare to see an artist address the connection between their art and their personal life directly, especially in the context of pop music. Nevertheless, the gossip magazines and the paparazzi will keep speculating, restless for answers. Grande’s “thank u, next” is an answer to that phenomenon, where she utilizes her musical platform as being both a slap in the face for celebrity worship culture and, most importantly, an anthem of self-love.
It is easy for followers of popular celebrity news to conclude that the song is a response to a recent breakup to her former fiancé Pete Davidson; however, with the bold statement of namedropping all her ex-boyfriends at the beginning of the song, she addresses parts of her personal life way beyond that breakup. The statement is followed by the now-iconic lyric “one taught me love / one taught me patience / one taught me pain,” posing a different attitude from most songs centered on ex-boyfriends, showing less of a “screw you” attitude and more of an “I’m grateful for you.”
The most interesting part of the song lies in its second verse. It is implied that Grande has found someone new—preluding it with “plus I met someone else / we’re having better discussions”—but later on, she reveals in a twist that “her name is Ari,” setting the rallying cry of self-love with a lyricism reminding us to Lorde’s “one girl swaying alone stroking her cheek” twist in “Liability.” In the bridge of “thank u, next,” Grande imagines the time where she will “walk down the aisle” on her wedding day, holding hands with her mother and thanking her father, and she closes her daydream by stating “at least this song is a smash,” pulling her out of the future and focusing on the now, which parallels her acknowledgment of the past and the uncertain future in her repeated titular phrase, “thank you / next.”
In “thank u, next,” Grande brings home the idea of gratitude and self-love while looking into the eyes of the gossip-hungry media to say “this is the answer to all of your questions.” With an affirmation of her past, an acceptance to the uncertainty of her future, and a focus on the present, “thank u, next” has become Grande’s piece of self-introspection that feels deeply personal and unapologetically public at the same time.