thank u, next: The Grace of Ariana Grande

by Ellie Turner

I can’t remember the last time a song sent such shattering shock waves through my group of friends. Sure, there have been songs that a few of us have enjoyed and discussed, but never one that seems to have resonated with almost every woman I know to such a great extent. That was until November 3rd, when Ariana Grande dropped thank u, next, completely out of the blue. It hasn’t been just my group of friends that have been affected by this song – it’s become the centre of internet culture over the past week, and not as the butt of a joke either. As one of my friends put it, the song has brought a “new wave of female energy”; a wave that aims not just to wash away any notion of women as weak, indecisive and male-dependent, but to completely override it.

If you haven’t heard it yet, thank u, next is an ode to all of Grande’s exes. However, it isn’t a typical break-up song. Thank u, next lists a selection of her famous ex-boyfriends, thanking them for what they’ve taught her: “One taught me love / one taught me patience / one taught me pain”. Grande handles her past relationships with the grace of an angel; there is no bitterness in sight. Of course, bitterness after a break-up is often completely valid, but there is something undeniably inspiring in the way Grande finds the good in her pain. Grande is the ultimate popstar in her continuous displays of strength. Over the past two years she has dealt with public break-ups, most recently calling off her engagement to Pete Davidson. She’s faced her break-up with Mac Miller and then his death, which she received widespread blame for across social media – many claimed that it was the ending of this relationship which drove him back to his addictions. Sadly unforgettably, Grande has also suffered through the Manchester attack of 2017, which resulted in 23 deaths and left 129 injured at her concert. Considering she has had to deal with all of this at the age of 25, no one would blame Grande for being at least a little bitter about the world. Yet the pop princess continues to face everything head on; with thank u, next, embodying this insane strength: “How she handles pain / That shit’s amazing”. It’s difficult to not feel inspired after listening.

It doesn’t stop there, either. Also central to thank u, next is the notion of having a relationship with yourself. The lyrics “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” sent the internet into meltdown, and for good reason. In an age where relationships are often used as a gauge for success, particularly female success (you only have to look at the cover of OK! to see women being slated for their break-ups), Grande decides to privilege her relationship with herself. In thank u, next, past lovers act simply as life lessons to be reflected upon, whilst her own empowered independence is both a priority and a constant. You only have to look at recent releases like Maroon 5’s Girls Like You or Kanye West & Lil Pump’s I Love It to understand that the male ego is often a fragile thing. Men tend to believe that women really cherish hearing male opinions of them, yet thank u, next, places the woman’s opinion of herself at the centre.

In a sentiment echoed in Little Mix’s latest release Joan of Arc (“I don’t need a man / If I’m loving you it’s ‘cause I can”), thank u, next acts as a reminder to women that you can just say “thank u, next” to men and their opinions, no matter what society tells you. It’s surely the classiest break-up song to ever be released, and I’m fully here for the empowering attitude it encompasses. (Thank u, next)