Ariana Grande has had a hard few years.

It started with the bombing during her Manchester Arena show. Twenty-three people were killed, with many more injured. Grande, who has always been extremely close to her fans, felt “every name.” About a year later, Grande and long-term boyfriend Mac Miller infamously ended their two-year relationship. Soon after, Grande entered an intense and ultimately short-lived relationship (and engagement) with SNL comedian Pete Davidson. On Sept. 7, 2018, Mac Miller died from what was later ruled as an accidental overdose (rest in peace, Easy Mac with the cheesy raps) and Oct. 14 saw the end of Davidson’s and Grande’s relationship. Tabloids never failed to clutch at every one of these events like leeches: twisting and manipulating and sucking the truth out like marrow in order to be replaced by whatever sold the most copies or got the most likes. It seemed that, for Grande, there was never a moment of peace, a time to privately heal.

So, yes, Ariana Grande has had a hard few years. Yet, just by going off of her newest single “thank u, next,” you never would have guessed it, with optimism and positivity encasing every element of the song like gold armor.  

The track is similar to “no tears left to cry,” which broke her silence after the Manchester Arena bombing, in the sense that both songs emerged, resilient, in the aftermath of a tragedy and both songs showcase not only Grande’s incredible vocal range but also her seemingly unyielding resolve. Despite jumping hurdle after hurdle, she never wavers, returning time and time again to this well of personal strength.

Encased in a twinkling and upbeat production, “thank u, next” glows. As quiet synths and keyboards introduce us to the effervescent glide of Grande’s first verse, we are once again reminded of her place as master of all things pop music. Delicate, light yet still reverberating with a hushed fortitude as she sings, “Thought I’d end up with Sean / But he wasn’t a match / Wrote some songs about Ricky / Now I listen and laugh,” we are irrevocably drawn in, caught by both the shimmer and the shine of her open, genuine honesty.

“thank u, next” is an uncomplicated ode to self-love. Although Grande takes time in focusing on each one of her exes, she always manages to circle back to herself in turn, expressing, “I’ve got so much love / Got so much patience / I’ve learned from the pain / I turned out amazing.” Her vocals are a gossamer’s touch of self-reassurance, and, much like “no tears left to cry,” much like really anything Grande has put out or performed since she fully matured into her own as a pop star, you can’t help but revel in the power that is exuded note after note. Ariana Grande says “thank you, next” to all that life has thrown at her and steps forward into growth with sophistication; she doesn’t look back. 

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