Ariana Grande shines through heartbreak


By Xavier Johnson, Web Editor

Once again, Ariana Grande has turned her much publicized heartbreak into a deeply personal album that, while struggling with authenticity, is a significant benchmark in her young discography in “Thank You, Next.”

Grande’s fifth studio album was produced amid public breakups with late boyfriend Mac Miller and the separation with her former fiancé Pete Davidson. Channeling this pain, “Thank You, Next” turns out to be her darkest album sonically and lyrically and, surprisingly, her sexiest album yet.

The singles from the album have blown up the charts.

“7 Rings,” the haunting hip-hop laced track interpolates the melody from “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music as Grande sings coldly.

“Break Up with Your Girlfriend Cause I’m Bored” is another chart-topping single that’s densely packed with 808s to punctuate Grande’s surprisingly aggressive lyrics.

While the two singles are good songs, they don’t necessarily feel like they fit Grande’s style. Each track feels like they were written for — and rejected by —Rihanna.

The tracks have her trademark sex appeal, rapping and talks of securing the “bag.” Sometimes the rap passages and use of slang on the album doesn’t feel authentic.

There are moments where it all comes off as something she probably doesn’t really say but needs to have in the song to make it as relatable as possible.

These similarities to Rihanna’s music is distracting, but if the songs are going to sound like Rihanna, at least they are good songs.

Once the album fleshes out and listeners get into the deep cuts, Grande’s musical evolution shines and her style becomes evident.

The album opens with “Imagine,” which sets the tone for the rest of the album by creating a sultry mix of vocals and crystal clean production, which sometimes can be a bad thing.

The instrumentals and vocal mixing strip away much of the soul that should be there. Grande nails high notes and is clearly singing about topics that touch her, but the lifeless instrumentals deaden the impact.

During an album that’s entrenched in the emotions of hurt and healing, it’s unfortunate that Grande’s performance is held back by the production.

In “Fake Smile” her proclamations of “If I’m hurt I ain’t gonna lie about it” is a perfect summation of the emotions found throughout this album. In “Fake Smile,” “Bloodline” and “Needy” Grande searches for answers for why relationships fail.

Through the questions comes a point of self-discovery that’s a satisfying emotional arc.

Grande’s defiance to hide her emotions and put on a facade is an empowering message. She speaks about being needy, emotional and grieving while being totally unapologetic about it all.

In the titular track, Grande’s arc concludes where she runs through her past relationships and assesses how she grew from those experiences. She settles on understanding that her relationship with herself is not only the most important one, but has influenced her growth the most.

“Thank You, Next” is flawed. The tracks sometimes blend together. With this latest work, Grande doesn’t help the accusations of cultural appropriation that have been levied against her.

The production strips away some emotion. However, Grande’s writing and empowering message shine through i