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Feb 14, 2019

thank u, next: A Totally Unbiased Ranking and Breakdown

This album is unreal, and making this was the only way I could even attempt to process it. Please drag me and let me know your personal rankings. I love you. Let's get into it.

12. make up

the sound: A cute, fluffy wink.
the message: “Make up” is a double entendre!!! Hehehe!!
the best lyric: “Highlight of my life, just like that Fenty Beauty kit”

Listen, I love makeup. If I could rank makeup as a whole, it’d be #1 on every list I ever make. But, this song right here, this song is the musical equivalent of an elementary-school valentine with candy taped on it—and not Twix or Reese’s or another cool candy. This song is sugar-loaded Sweethearts from the mediocre kid who sits behind you.

“make up” is fun and cute, and it serves its purpose as a palate-cleansing short bop right before “ghostin”, the album’s powerhouse. Plus, you know Ariana has probably always wanted to do a song with the makeup/make up pun. But let’s be real, the best and smartest thing about this song is that it’s the shortest one on the album.

11. bloodline

the sound: Ska. That is all I will say.
the message: I’m into you, but I don’t want to be related to you. (???)
the best lyric: “I ain't lookin' for my one true love/Yeah, that ship sailed away”

I’m so confused by this song. I think she’s trying to say that she doesn’t want to marry this person, but the word “bloodline” just makes me think of first cousins. So, yes, I too don’t want to be first cousins with my crush.

The bridge here is the saving grace—I love the fast-talking rhythm of it. Regardless, I have 0.00000% interest in ska music. Brass instruments are fun and all, but I haven’t owned a hacky sack since I was six years old. Next.

10. bad idea

the sound: I’m an old-timey spy on a top-secret mission.
the message: One-night-stands are good therapy!
the best lyric: “You should know I’m temporary”

I truly do not care about this song. It’s not bad, but it’s just… there. It does sound like it’d be on the soundtrack for the next Spy Kids movie, or for your next Instagram-stalking spree. Also, the arbitrary beat switch towards the end is a major redeeming quality. Besides that, this song is pretty filler, and there isn’t really enough substance for me to talk about it for one more millisecond.

9. imagine

the sound: Mariah Carey, but good.
the message: Wouldn’t it be cool if we were two normies in love?
the best lyric: “Tell me your secrets/all of the creep shit”

As Drake as said over 1,275,894,730 times, being famous is hard. Ariana here is nostalgic over a timeline that never happened—where she’s a non-fame (n. a non-famous person) and dating a fellow non-fame, and they’re just relaxing and getting drunk and sleeping ‘til noon (because not being famous means you don’t have a job, of course).

Listen to me—this is not a bad song by any means, and her voice here reaches astronomical pitches that triggered every dog in my neighborhood. It’s also beautiful and symbolic that it starts the album on an optimistic note. As many people smarter than me have pointed out, this is not a breakup album—“imagine” proves that. Still, I probably wouldn’t listen to this unless I was listening to the entire album. Sorry-ana Grande.


the sound: Boppy campfire sing-a-long.
the message: Don’t ever feel guilty for wanting to be alone for no reason.
the best lyric: “It ain't nothing wrong with saying I need me time”

The first time I heard this, I was no-doubt underwhelmed. Then I went to the gym (brag) and the grocery store for my weekly hummus restock, and this song was still stuck in my head. The message is awesome here, but this chorus—I just imagine Ari and all of her hot “7 rings” music video buddies sitting around a campfire and belting it out together. It’s fun, a total self-care anthem, and loosely reminds me of Soulja Boy’s “Kiss Me Thru The Phone” which is automatic bonus points.

7. in my head

the soundChill, moody R&B.
the message: You’re not who I imagined you to be.
the best lyric: “Boy, I invented you”

Falling in love with someone is totally different than falling in love with the idea of that person, and Lord knows this was the story of my life throughout high school and college.

Hold on, can we discuss this Cain and Abel metaphor? I truly did not expect my eight-year Christian school education to prime me for thank u, next – yet here we are. Basically her line “they see Cain and I see Abel” refers to Adam and Eve’s sons who both made sacrifices to God, only for God to choose Abel’s sacrifice and causing Cain to murder him out of jealousy.

Why the hell am I summarizing Biblical fables while talking about Ariana Grande? Okay, okay—so I’m just not entirely sure this good brother/murder metaphor works here, but this song has Biblical imagery throughout, so I guess we can see what she was going for. Also, this is the girl who internationally released a single called “God is a woman” – so clearly Ari is very into writing about my grandpa’s favorite book.

Regardless, I’m into this song and I ain’t mad at it for making me Google a summary of Genesis.

6. break up with your girlfriend, i’m bored

the sound: 2000s Destiny’s Child vibes.
the message: [see title]
the best lyric: [again, see title]

Is this the best song title in the history of this galaxy? Yes. Is everyone in the music video hot as hell? Yes. Does this song sample *NSYNC? ABSO-F*CKING-LUTELY! [asterisk use in solidarity with the unnecessary stylization of *NSYNC]

Not only does this song sample the second-greatest boy band of all time (don’t even COME AT ME with Backstreet Boys slander—I am not the one), but it samples—in my opinion—the most underrated song they’ve ever made. “It Makes Me Ill” was always in the shadow of other bangers on No Strings Attached, but the song has always been effing amazing and I’m so happy it’s getting some shine from Ariana.

Let me try to quiet the boy-band-psycho part of my brain for a minute—this song is incredible, and my only complaint is that it wasn’t released when I was in 9th grade and wishing death on all of my crushes’ girlfriends.

5. 7 rings

the sound: Maria Von TRAP (boooom!)
the message: Money is good. Being poor? Bad.
the best lyric: “You like my hair? Gee, thanks, just bought it”

The first time I heard this song, I screamed “I LOVE THIS SONG.” The first time I saw the video, I screamed “OKAY, I DON’T KNOW WHO THIS GIRL IS, BUT I STILL LOVE IT.” Then I thought why I reacted that way, and I realized ‘wow, she is really trying to be black here.’ And don’t worry, I’m not going to be another white girl to talk about cultural appropriation like it’s mine to talk about—but still, this video low-key made me cringe.

For example, there is no doubt that the best and funniest line of this song is the line about her hair – but Ari, is wig culture yours to sing about? Ugh, I need to lighten this up—okay, this song makes me want tattoos so I can identify with the line “girls with tattoos who like getting in trouble”! Yay! Literally me!

Bottom line—this song might be problematic, but it’s a banger—and anything that samples The Sound of Music has my heart forever.

4. fake smile

the sound: Soulful, vibe-y fun.
the message: I’m human—I’m not going to pretend the media doesn’t get to me.
the best lyric: “fuck a fake smile”

This song is so good. Ugh. This album is incredible because these songs are about such specific phenomena, as opposed to general, easy themes. She’s singing about fame here so honestly, so specific to her. I obviously can’t relate here but it must be hard to nail a song about being famous that doesn’t make your non-fame audience instantly roll their eyes—this song is proof that it’s possible.

3. needy

the sound: Dreamy, distorted lullaby.
the message: I’m fully aware that I’m not perfect.
the best lyric: “I admit that I'm a lil' messed up/But I can hide it when I'm all dressed up”

This is absolutely my favorite song on the album, and the one that has had the most play on my Spotify by far. The beat is gorgeous and so, so cool—but what really kicks it into my personal top spot is the message. Most pop divas sing songs that basically say, ‘yes, I’m crazy, but I don’t care and you can effing deal with it’. Simply put, Ariana is better than that. She’s self-aware about how crazy she can be, and she’s really not the biggest fan of it. But as my mother has told me multiple times, “admitting you’re wrong is the first step.”

I’m obsessed with this song—truly the best anthem of self-loathing since the Andy Milonakis show theme song.

2. ghostin

the sound: Haunting.
the message: I’m sorry for putting you through this with me.
the best lyric: “I know that it breaks your heart when I cry again/Over him”

No words. I really… have no words. But I can’t leave this song hanging, so here we go.

Let it be known that “ghostin” is beyond this list, beyond any ranking.

I’ve always loved Mac Miller, and was even lucky enough to see him live at Florida’s underage-drinking-landmark Jannus Landing. When I read the news about his overdose, I was shocked. We were basically the same age, and he had created some of my favorite albums. I was heartbroken, and I’ve only seen the dude in person once—I can’t even begin to imagine what Ariana went through, and is still going through.

This song is complex, gorgeous, important—and consistently makes me tear up. All I want is for Ari to find relief and happiness. That is all.

1. thank u, next

the sound: Pure, magical happiness.
the message: My past relationships have made me a better person.
the best lyric: Let’s be real—it’s the gift of the phrase “thank u, next”

Yeah, yeah. It’s really easy to discount the obvious choice here—it’s been everywhere, and we’re probably sick of listening to it by now. Plus, the vastness of “ghostin” could’ve easily been worthy of the #1 spot.

Still, there’s a reason this current Ari-era is called “the thank u, next era”. The release of this song simultaneously broke the internet and my back from twerking too hard (wow, Kali, how many popular-in-2012 phrases can you cram into one sentence?).

This song is unlike any breakup song. It’s not about revenge, it’s not about anger, and it’s definitely not about digging your key into the side of someone’s pretty little souped-up four-wheel drive. Simply put, this song is about growth. The first time I heard this song, I cried from happiness and muttered under my breath “I am… so proud of her…” I am a firm believer that just because a relationship ends doesn’t mean it wasn’t a successful relationship—and “thank u, next” is the theme song for that complicated philosophy.

Every relationship, whether it’s a serious-partner-for-years or a yes-I-dated-a-drug-dealer-in-college, is a learning experience and opportunity for growth. Ariana could’ve easily wrote a song blasting Pete, but she didn’t—she thanked him. It’s the definition of taking the high road after a breakup, and such a healthy and progressive message to send through the vessel of Ariana’s unparalleled voice.

“thank u, next” is flawless and a major turning point in Ariana’s career and life. It’s also the perfect album title—again, this isn’t a breakup album. Instead, it’s an album about past relationships, and how they can teach you how to value yourself and fight for what you want out of love—if you’re willing to admit you can learn.