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Track Review

You may have heard Ariana Grande’s latest recent single, “Thank U, Next,” a tune about past breakups, including (it's widely rumored) the singer's recent split from whirlwind fiancé Pete Davidson. It’s a catchy, somewhat problematic track that blends profanity with a message about learning from mistakes and growing as a person.

And for an artist who dropped such a big hit one month before, you’d think Ariana might be relaxing, taking a nice Christmas vacation somewhere. But she’s not. In fact, she’s been in the studio recording her newest single, “Imagine,” which is reported to be the next glimpse into her upcoming album Thank U, Next.

Touched with a hint of profanity, this song veers away from lessons Ariana has learned and instead opens up about some intimate time she spent with a beau … time that she’s now sharing with the world.

'Regular' Intimacy?

The song's story starts with Ariana hopping into a car with her man and heading home: “Step up the two of us, nobody knows us/Get in the car like, 'Skrrt.'"

And home is a place where the two plan to make the most of their time alone (“Staying up all night, order me pad thai/Then we gon' sleep 'til noon”), as casual as can be (“Me with no makeup, you in the bathtub/Bubbles and bubbly, ooh/This is a pleasure, feel like we never act this regular”).

It's a place where the couple will snap some selfies (“Click, click, click and post”) indulge extravagantly (“Drip-drip-dripped in gold”) and spend the rest of the night in bed together (“Kiss me, and take off your clothes”).

The chorus hints that the experiences Ariana describes here only exist in her dreams: "Imagine a world like that," she sings repeatedly.

Then again, if we look closely at the lyrics, we notice that some are in the past tense, perhaps suggesting a real experience with someone from Grande's past (“Knew you were perfect, after the first kiss”). She also longs for complete emotional honesty, asking this guy, “Tell me your secrets, all of the creep s--t/That's how I know it's true/Baby, direct it, name in the credits.”

And by the time she wraps things up, we get another reference to Ariana in bed with her man: “We go like up 'til I'm 'sleep on your chest/Love how my face fits so good in your neck.”

Letting Down Her Guard

Ariana Grande is not known for painting murky pictures. Both in video and word, she tends to make her point quickly. And she continues that trend here, with lyrics that paint a picture of her connection with the guy she's singing about.

And it's a picture of intimacy, both physically and emotionally. Sex is obviously once again a part of the story she's telling. (And, obviously, marriage is not.) But unlike some of Ariana's previous hits, the connection she imagines here isn't just a physical one. She's clearly longing for more than just a passionate night of pleasure. She wants someone she can really know, trust and let her guard down around. She wants something real and "regular."

Many fans are speculating that this track is about her ex-boyfriend Mac Miller, who had a tattoo on his arm that read "Imagine" (and who died of a drug overdose in September). Ariana's Instagram page perhaps reinforces that hypothesis. There, she said that this new song (and upcoming album) “mourns failed yet important, beautiful relationships in my life (as well as celebrates growth/exploring new independence).”

We'll have to wait and see how the balance of Thank U, Next deals with all these themes. As for the messages we hear on "Imagine," there may be hints that Ariana is maturing in some ways … even as she continues to pursue a strategy for intimacy that's likely to leave her disappointed again apart from a marital commitment.

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Hit No. 1 on iTunes.

Record Label

Republic Records




December 14, 2018

On Video

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