Our past can shape us, but it doesn’t have to define us. That’s the message Ariana Grande delivers on her latest track, “Thank U, Next.”
The surprise single dropped just three short months after the release of her fourth studio album, Sweetener. And it turns out Ariana’s been awfully busy, as this song also reportedly serves as the title track for her forthcoming fifth effort.
Grande wants fans and former lovers alike to know that she plans on moving on from her sometimes dramatic past, even as she steps purposefully toward better things in the future.
Grande looks back on her former relationships and opens up about all she’s learned. She namechecks former boyfriends such as Big Sean, Ricky Alvarez, Mac Miller and Pete Davidson, and she admits that she’s learned a thing or two from her love life: “One taught me love/One taught me patience/And one taught me pain.”
She doesn’t view any of her former relationships as wasted (“Now, I’m so amazing/I’ve loved and I’ve lost/But that’s not what I see/So, look what I got/Look what you taught me”). Instead, she’s moving on—albeit very profanely so—in gratitude: “Thank you, next/I’m so f—in’ grateful for my ex.”
Grande says she’s now focusing on friendships instead (“Spend more time with my friends/I ain’t worried ’bout nothin’”). And she says that she’s learning more about herself in this romance-free season as well: “Plus, I met someone else/We havin’ better discussions/ … But this one gon’ last/‘Cause her name is Ari.” (Some fans mistakenly thought Grande was confessing that she’d become a lesbian; instead, she was just using an abbreviated version of her name.)
Using third-person language (and more vulgarity too), Grande says she’s learned important lessons from herself as well: “She taught me love/She taught me patience/How she handles the pain/That s—‘s amazing.”
Grande expects to marry eventually (“One day I’ll walk down the aisle”). And she imagines praising her mother on that day for pushing through after divorce (“Holding hands with my mama/I’ll be thanking my dad/’Cause she grew from the drama”). Finally, she says she only wants to get married once, then adds, “God forbid something happens/Least this song is a smash.”
There was tons of buzz earlier this year following Ariana Grande’s lightning-quick engagement to comedian and actor, Pete Davidson, as the two decided to get married after just one month of dating. But it didn’t last long. As fast as the romance bloomed, it wilted, with Ariana and Pete calling it quits a few weeks ago.
And now? While Hollywood may still be grieving, Ariana is boldly declaring that she is OK, and that she is working on learning more about herself.
Her song here could be interpreted as sarcastic and flippant, especially given her casual use of harsh profanities when talking about her exes. And those unfortunate moments dampen much of the enthusiasm we might have had about a song that otherwise leans in some empowering directions.
Kristin Smith joined the Plugged In team in 2017. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. She and her husband, Eddy, love raising their children Judah and Selah. Kristin also has a deep affection for coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan).