In a drunken haze, I heard God. God was a woman indeed. And Her name was Ari.
It was Saturday, November 3, 2018, the same day that Pride Month was holding their Reg-GAY-ton party. Reg-GAY-ton, at least for some, was a night to end all nights. There was hype surrounding the party in a way that many Swarthmore parties don’t often get — or deserve, for that matter. The party was meant to be hot, sensual, and, above all else, it was supposed to have good music.
Just when Swarthmore students were somewhat buzzed but still present enough to appreciate her artistry, Ariana Grande’s surprise release “thank u, next” started to play. Grande starts the song with some lines that pay homage to some of her infamous exes, with the lyrics:
“Though I’d end up with Sean
But he wasn’t a match
Wrote some songs about Ricky
Now I listen and laugh
Even almost got married
And for Pete, I’m so thankful
Wish I could say, ‘Thank you’ to Malcolm
’Cause he was an angel”
But don’t be mistaken. While Grande gives a shout out to her exes in “thank u, next,” the song is clearly written to her, for her. This is seen most clearly in the lines:
“Plus, I met someone else
We havin’ better discussions
I know they say I move on too fast
But this one gon’ last
’Cause her name is Ari
And I’m so good with that”
The self-love aspect of the song has really resonated with people. This, with the anthemic chorus repeating “thank u, next (next!),” has people rallying behind Grande and relating to her in a way that is hard to come by with pop stars. Beyond all that, however, the coincidence of the timing is too beautiful for me to not suspect that she tailored this for us specifically. The implications are clear: already buzzed, already in anticipation, our expectations for Reg-GAY-ton was subverted by Grande, who absorbed it for herself.
It seems impossible that Grande’s releasing her most vulnerable, most organic, most truthful single at the same time a significant subsection of (drunk) Swarthmore students across campus were at their most vulnerable, most organic, most truthful (for better or for worse) could be a coincidence.
Despite the fact that the timing of the release made way too much sense in regards to Swarthmore’s community (or, again, at least, a select subsection of it), Grande’s releasing “thank u, next” was unexpected, as her last album “Sweetener” isn’t even three months old yet. Generally, artists will take one or two years between records to make sure that their current effort has enough time to go through the single releases, the music videos, the concert, etc.
That being said, it appears as though Grande ignored the rules and decided to simply say, “thank u, next!” to the “Sweetener” era. The release date for the new album (aptly named “thank u, next” just like the single) has not been given yet, but Grande tweeted recently that she is almost done with it, so it will presumably be out sometime within the next month or so.
The release of the single itself was preceded by rumors and drama. If you’ve been following the right accounts on Twitter, you’d know Grande has had a rough past couple of months. Since the release of her last album, “Sweetener,” she has suffered the high-profile loss of her ex Mac Miller, whom she had dated for two years, and the equally high-profile break up of her engagement with Pete Davidson.
Based on the personal nature of “thank u, next,” we may expect that Grande will touch on these topics in other songs on the album. Grande hasn’t been shy to speak about serious topics in her past albums. “Sweetener’s” closing track “Get Well Soon,” for example, is composed in memory of the Manchester victims from the bombing at her concert in the summer of 2017.
There are many routes Grande could’ve taken with this single. She could’ve gone with the classic and understandable CeeLo Green route of “FUCK YOU,” or the somber and scarily honest Taylor Swift route of “Dear John” or “Back to December.” Grande, however, decided to triumphantly celebrate and thank her past. Rather than pettily dramatize her post-engagement breakup, she came out singing, earnestly, “I’m so fucking grateful for my ex.”
It seems like the tone of this has really struck a chord with people, as the song has absolutely become a cultural phenomenon. “thank u, next” marks a breakthrough in Grande’s career. In terms of success, it is poised to become her first ever Billboard Hot 100 number one single. The song also now holds the record for the fastest song to reach 100 million streams on Spotify, reaching the feat in 11 days to beat out “Shape of You’s” 15.
At Swarthmore, “thank u, next” has also been culturally significant. It has been all over the “Swarthmore Memes for Quaker Teens” page. Posts with the lyrics, “One taught me love, one taught me patience, one taught me pain” have been garnering incredible amounts of likes. In terms of personal anecdotes, I’ve heard it being played in Sharples at peak lunch hours and referenced more times I can count (usually followed by, “Her mind!”).
It is clear that “thank u, next” is a significant roadmark in Grande’s career. I am personally extremely excited to see where she decides to go next. If it’s anything in the vein of “thank u, next,” I’m sure she’ll have a career-defining album on her hands. In the meantime, Grande has both Swarthmore students and the rest of the world singing, “thank u, next!”
Image courtesy of wikipedia.org