Ariana Grande dropped her fifth studio album Friday, and, no, you’re not having deja vu: “Thank U, Next” arrives less than a year after her last album, “Sweetener,” which debuted atop the Billboard 200 chart last August.
The past six months have been particularly eventful and emotional for Grande — themes she confronts on her new 12-track album, named after the immensely relatable breakup song she released on the heels of her broken engagement to comedian Pete Davidson.
Here’s everything you need to know about “Thank U, Next.”
First, let’s take in the track list, which Grande teased on Instagram last month.
Yep, there’s a song called NASA. Consider it the new essential anthem for anyone who needs space (ha, space) in their relationship.
Yes, she references her exes.
We wouldn’t expect anything less from Grande — her last album literally had a song called “Pete Davidson.” And the title track for “Thank U, Next” includes pointed (and heavily discussed) lines about several of Grande’s famous exes, including Davidson, Big Sean and Mac Miller, who died in September from an accidental overdose.
Grande weaves the ups and downs of her roller-coaster year throughout “Thank U, Next.” She celebrates her close friends (and her financial wealth) on “7 Rings,” admits she’s “a little messed up” on “Needy” and confesses “I done been through way too much” on “Fake Smile.” Even as she pursues a free-spirited fling on “Bloodline,” she alludes to heartbreak: “I ain’t lookin’ for my one true love, yeah that ship sailed away.”
The most forthright references to Grande’s romantic setbacks appear to be in “Ghostin'," which many fans are convinced is about Grande grieving Miller’s death while in a serious but relatively new relationship with Davidson.
I know you hear me when I cry
I try to hold it in at night
When you’re sleeping next to me
But it’s your arms that I need this time
On social media, fans quickly pointed out that the track sounds a lot like “2009,” a song from Miller’s Grammy-nominated album “Swimming,” which was released a month before his death at 26.
Grande recently tweeted that “Ghostin'” is about “feeling badly for the person you’re with bc you love somebody else. feeling badly bc he can tell he can’t compare."
Fans have also found apparent references to Davidson and Miller in “In My Head,” which Grande explained, in a tweet to fans, is about “being in love w a version of somebody you’ve created in your head. falling for someone that they are not.”
The release is paired with a new single — and a provocative music video.
Grande didn’t just release “Thank U, Next” at midnight — she also dropped the music video for the album’s third single, “Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored.” The video sheds light on one of the album’s most eye-catching track titles and has clocked up more than 9 million views (and counting) since its midnight debut.
The song, which samples ’N Sync’s “It Makes Me Ill,” focuses on an infatuation with someone who is already in a relationship. In the video, Grande exchanges flirty glances with a man she meets (along with his girlfriend) at a club. The girlfriend, a ponytail-wearing brunette, bears a striking resemblance to Grande, who is blond when she meets the couple but transforms into her trademark ponytail when she attends a party hosted by her new acquaintances.
Grande appears to be in competition with the woman as she nonchalantly sings the song’s seductive refrain. But when she goes to make her move at the end of the video, we see it’s the woman, not the man, she’s been after as Grande goes in for a kiss.
This aspect of the video has caused some controversy. Grande has only publicly dated men, so the implied kiss at the end has led some viewers to accuse the singer of queer-baiting — or, at least, the use of a tired trope that (in the context of a song hinting at infidelity) reinforces harmful stereotypes about bisexual people.
Grande has a sizable LGBTQ fan base and once wrote that she is “eternally indebted to and inspired by the LGBTQ community.”
Shangela (of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” fame) makes a cameo.
“Thank U, Next” is notably devoid of features with other artists (though we can’t rule out remixes). But we do get to hear from Shangela, the fan-favorite “Drag Race” alum, born D.J. Pierce, who puts a spin on Neil Armstrong’s indelible line at the top of “NASA”: “This is one small step for woman, one giant step for womankind.”
Shangela told E! News that the cameo happened spontaneously but that Grande’s brother, Frankie, helped make the connection.
The album also features a spoken intro from Grande’s grandmother, Marjorie Grande (known to Grande and her fans as Nonna), who opens “Bloodline” with a feisty proclamation that makes Grande giggle: “Because I’m trying to do the best that I can, and they can’t find something to satisfy me.”