Music review: Ariana Grande is self-assured and sassy on new album Thank U, Next

Ariana Grande's fifth album was released in the wake of great personal tragedy.
Ariana Grande's fifth album was released in the wake of great personal tragedy.PHOTO: REPUBLIC RECORDS

Pop

THANK U, NEXT

Ariana Grande

Republic Records

4 stars

Ariana Grande might have had a rough 2018, but the tough experiences have provided fodder for one of her most raw but self-assured albums to date.

Her fifth album, named for the lead single and chart-topping Thank U, Next, was released in the wake of great personal tragedy - namely the death of Grande's former boyfriend, rapper Mac Miller, and the subsequent messy and very public break-up with fiance and comedian Pete Davidson.

While her struggles have been documented in the press, this is Grande taking charge of her own narrative and dealing with it through music in the most spontaneous and honest way.

Released just six months after Sweetener, which clinched Best Pop Vocal Album at the recent Grammy Awards, Thank U, Next was reportedly completed in all of two weeks.

On it, she is not afraid to be vulnerable.

On Needy, which is about wanting to feel needed, she sings, "I admit that I'm a lil' messed up/But I can hide it when I'm all dressed up".

That candidness is a through line of the album, coming back again on Ghostin', where she admits "I'm a girl with a whole lot of baggage".

In response to a fan's tweet, she said the song is about "feeling badly for the person you're with (because) you love somebody else... feeling badly (because) he can tell he can't compare".

 

But it is also quite apparent who she is referencing.

"Yeah, look at you, boy, I invented you," she sings, in a dig at her ex Davidson, on the trap-laced number In My Head, where she tussles with a person's reality and the version she built of them in her head.

But even while dealing with her issues in an unflinching manner, like on Fake Smile, she still retains her signature sass - "If I'm hurt, I ain't gon' lie about it/Arms crossed with the attitude, lips pouted" - all over a catchy, vintage soul sample.

It is a credit to Grande that while she is coming from a place of pain, the darkness never overwhelms.

She still manages to be cheeky and flirty, like on Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I'm Bored, which is exactly what it sounds like.

In lusting after someone who is taken, she has the perfect album closer because it is loud and clear, that despite the heartbreak, love and loss, Grande is moving on - and moving up.