When Ariana Grande released "thank u, next" back in November, I knew I was going to hate it before I even heard it.

On paper, it's everything I dislike about modern pop music—cloying lyrics about exes accompanied by a grating, sing-song-y refrain, all wrapped up in the "nice girl with a bad side" package that every major pop star seems to be pushing these past few years. "Thank u, next" was going to be yet another wad of chewed up bubblegum inadvertently stuck to the bottom of my shoe: sticky, annoying, and eventually forgotten.

But to my surprise, I didn't hate it. Sure, it was basically what I expected. The lyrics were cloying, the refrain was grating, the package was Ariana Grande. But there was something else there too. Whereas typical "ex-boyfriend" songs (Taylor Swift) tend to come off as petty and vengeful, "thank u, next" struck me as empowering. Grande wasn't singing about how awful her exes were or how they had screwed her over—quite the opposite, actually. Grande's "thank you's" seem like genuine appreciation for the ways her previous relationships have helped her grow into the person she is now. She's simply older and more mature now, and ready to take on whatever comes next.

I didn't just not hate "thank u, next." I liked it. And now that Ariana Grande has released the full twelve-track album, I've come to a horrifying realization. I like Ariana Grande, too.

thank u, next

The entire thank u, next album is upsettingly good. From the poppy "NASA" to the hauntingly emotional "Ghostin," every single track gives the sense of honest introspection. In "NASA," for instance, Grande cleverly expresses her need for "space" in a relationship. "Baby, you know time apart is beneficial/ It's like I'm the universe and you'll be N-A-S-A." Later, in "Ghostin," Grande wrestles with the conflict of being in one relationship while mourning another one: "I know that it breaks your heart when I cry again/ Over him, mmh/ I know that it breaks your heart when I cry again/ 'Stead of ghostin' him."

Each track flows into the next, giving the impression that Grande is working through the emotional fallout from a complex series of relationships as the album progresses. This makes a lot of sense considering the publicity and tragedy surrounding her past two years, from the terrorist attack on her Manchester concert in 2017 to the death of her ex-boyfriend Mac Miller. Unlike many pop stars who tend to mine drama from nothing, Grande's trauma feels authentic which, in turn, makes her music feel authentic. In this context, the titular "thank u, next" solidifies as a true empowerment anthem.

Ultimately, Grande's newest album is poised to become a huge hit and for once, the accolades are deserved. I can't believe I'm saying this, but Ariana Grande's thank u, next is fantastic.


Dan Kahan is a writer & screenwriter from Brooklyn, usually rocking a man bun. Find more at dankahanwriter.com



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Music Features

On This Day: Shakira Liberated Everyone's “She Wolf”

"I was in the studio in a bad mood that day, then I got inspired and went to a corner and I wrote the lyrics and the melody in 10 minutes. The image of the she wolf just came to my head, and when I least expected it I was howling and panting," Shakira said.

By Fabio Alexx

11 years ago, on July 10th, 2009, Colombian singer Shakira released the first single off her third studio album.

"She Wolf" is a synth-pop banger built on a B minor progression. It was, in many ways, an insane song, born out of the singer's own frustration and ennui.

"I was in the studio in a bad mood that day, then I got inspired and went to a corner and I wrote the lyrics and the melody in 10 minutes. The image of the she wolf just came to my head, and when I least expected it I was howling and panting," Shakira said.

Though the music was composed by John Hill and Sam Endicott, lead singer of post-punk band The Bravery, the lyrics were all Shakira's own. "[Shakira] contacted him (Hill), asking if he had any stuff," said Endicott. "We never had her in mind. We just made the thing independently of her, and then she liked it a lot, and she sang over it. She used some of the melodies we put in there and then wrote these crazy lyrics about being a werewolf. And that's how it happened."

Shakira - She Wolf www.youtube.com


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Music Lists

6 Albums to Get Hyped About in February

Here are the most exciting new drops for February 2019.

2019 is going to be a big year for music.

Check out the drops we're most excited about for next month.

Ariana Grande - Thank U, Next

Date: February

Ariana Grande had a whirlwind 2018, having released her previous studio album, Sweetener, just back in August. Since then, she's weathered the death of her ex-boyfriend, Mac Miller, and gone through an intense relationship, engagement, and subsequent break-up with SNL regular, Pete Davidson. Now she's single, stronger, and ready to take on whatever comes next. Grande has already released 3 singles from the album, "Thank U, Next," "7 Rings," and "Imagine." The album is set to have a total of 12 tracks.

Jessica Pratt - Quiet Signs

Date: Feb. 8

Singer/songwriter Jessica Pratt's third studio album, Quiet Signs, is releasing in only a few weeks. "I think the record has to do with connection. It sounds cheesy, but there's an inner awakening. That's what I felt like. It isn't all serious," Pratt told Rolling Stone. The album is being released via Mexican Summer and was produced by Pratt and Al Carson.

Cass McCombs - Tip of the Sphere

Date: Feb. 8

Cass McCombs is also releasing his new album, Tip of the Sphere, on February 8th. This will be his ninth studio album, following 2016's Mangy Love. The singer/songwriter, whose mysterious folk-rock stylings have appeared on multiple album-of-the-year lists, has already released two singles from his upcoming release: "Sleeping Volcanoes" and "Estrella."

Dream Theater - Distance Over Time

Date: Feb. 22

There aren't many prog-metal bands from the 80s still releasing music. Luckily, Dream Theater is an exception. Distance Over Time will be their 14th studio album, created while living and jamming together during the summer of 2018. The first single and opening track, "Untethered Angel," is about freeing yourself from the underlying fear that pervades modern society.

Sleaford Mods - Eton Alive

Date: Feb. 22

The electronic punk duo is releasing their fifth album, Eton Alive. Known for their punk-hop rants aimed to cut through society's bullshit, Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn have already released the first single, "Flipside." The track is an aggressive, agitated, yet weirdly measured screed that bodes well for the rest of the album.

Yak - Pursuit of Momentary Happiness

Date: Feb. 8

London rock trio Yak is releasing their second studio album, Pursuit of Momentary Happiness. Their first album, Alas Salvation, was met with critical success and their new singles—"Bellyache," "White Male Carnivore" and "Fried"—suggest a hyper-energetic return to form that is sure to be one of the best rock albums of the month.


Dan Kahan is a writer & screenwriter from Brooklyn, usually rocking a man bun. Find more at dankahanwriter.com


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