Music review: Ariana Grande still staying sassy through pain

Singer Ariana Grande taps her personal tragedy for Thank U, Next.
Singer Ariana Grande taps her personal tragedy for Thank U, Next.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REPUBLIC RECORDS

Although Ariana Grande bares her soul in her latest album, the darkness never overwhelms

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 after the lead single and chart-topping Thank U, Next, was released in the wake of great personal tragedy - namely the death of Grande's ex-boyfriend, rapper Mac Miller, and the subsequent messy and public break-up with her fiance, comedian Pete Davidson.

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

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

On it, she is not afraid to be vulnerable.

  • POP


  • THANK U, NEXT 

    Ariana Grande 

    Republic Records

    4 Stars

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', in which she admits: "I'm a girl with a whole lot of baggage."

In response to a fan's tweet, she says 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 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, in which she tussles with a person's reality and the version she built of him 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 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, a cheeky title in itself.

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.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 14, 2019, with the headline 'Still staying sassy through pain'. Print Edition | Subscribe