In the early hours of Friday morning, just four months after calling off her engagement to Pete Davidson, Ariana Grande released her fifth studio (and first breakup) album, Thank U, Next. Just as with the three singles she’s already released—the eponymously titled one, plus “Imagine“ and “7 Rings”—Grande’s nine new songs are full of references to her personal life, which has unfortunately been quite eventful as of late. A month before ending her whirlwind relationship with Davidson, Grande’s previous ex Mac Miller died of an overdose, at the age of 26, marking another rollercoaster of a year for Grande, who’s still recovering from the bombing at her concert in Manchester that killed 39 of her fans and injured 139 more.
Of course, not all of the lyrics in her latest are downcast; there are also shoutouts to Fenty Beauty, a cameo from her grandma, and pretty much the entirety of the delightfully raunchy “Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored,” for which she also released a music video (featuring Riverdale’s Charles Melton) on Friday night. For the most part, though, Thank U, Next gets as serious as Sweetener did when touching on the Manchester bombing; in the weeks after her breakup with Davidson, Grande said that she was able to turn around the album so quickly—in less than three months—because it was her way to “heal.” (When a fan asked her how she managed to do it, Grande responded, “how u think i survived these 2/3 months ksjsksjs.”)
“I wish he were here instead / Don’t want that living in your head / He just comes to visit me / When I’m dreaming every now and then.” This lyric from “Ghostin,” which riffs on Mac Miller’s song “2009,” from his last album, Swimming, echoes the same sentiments as the tribute to Miller that Grande posted on Instagram in the days after death, which read, in part, “i can’t believe you aren’t here anymore. i really can’t wrap my head around it.” Still, the song could be interpreted more generally; Grande responded to a fan who asked what the song was about last month by summing it as “feeling badly for the person you’re with bc you love somebody else. feeling badly bc he can tell he can’t compare…. and how i should be ghosting him.”
“Falling, falling, but I never thought you’d leave me / Falling, falling, needed something to believe in.” In “In My Head,” Grande again echoes her tribute. The song begins with a voicemail from her longtime friend Doug Middlebrook, whom she described earlier this week as “a major help to [her] thru some v difficult moments,” which reassures her that “the only thing you can fix is yourself. I love you, this has gone on way too long. Enough is enough.” (Presumably, he left it either after Miller’s death or Grande’s breakup with Davidson.)
“My imagination’s too creative / They see demon, I see angel, angel, angel / Without the halo, wingless angel.” Grande memorably used the word “angel” to describe Miller in the beginning of “Thank U, Next,” which suggests she’s again referring to him here. (She’s also previously described Miller as “the kindest, sweetest soul with demons he never deserved.”) If so, this could be touching on the public’s perception of Miller’s addiction—both in questioning why she would stay with him, as well as even unjustly blaming her for Miller’s death.
“I thought that you were the one / But it was all in my head.” Last month, Grande tweeted that “In My Head” was about “being in love w a version of somebody you’ve created in your head. falling for someone that they are not.” That seems to be the case for Davidson, seeing as Grande was by all accounts deeply in love with him before they split in October.
“Look at you, boy, I invented you / Your Gucci tennis shoes runnin’ from your issues / Wanted you to grow, but, boy, you wasn’t budding.” Davidson was already something of a celebrity before dating Grande, from his work with Saturday Night Live, but it was only after their relationship began that he catapulted to fame. The beginning of their relationship, however, was not without road bumps; Davidson’s joke about the Manchester bombing, for example, could definitely be an example of why she wanted the subject of “In My Head” to grow.
Then again, the lyric could also be referring to Miller and his drug use, and therefore expressing her support and desire for him to continue pursuing sobriety. (In Grande’s tribute to Miller, she also said “we talked about this. so many times. i’m so mad, i’m so sad i don’t know what to do.”)
“Just wanna have a good time, yuh / Ain’t no need to apologize, no / But you gon’ have to let this shit go.“ Unlike Grande’s song “NASA,” which her friend Victoria Monet insisted was not about Davidson, the same can’t seem to be said for “Bloodline,” which seems to focus entirely on Grande’s ex.
“Don’t want you in my bloodline, yeah / Just wanna have a good time, yeah / And no need to apologize, no / But you gon’ have to let this shit go.” While Grande starts out describing how the subject makes her feel “so incredible,” the chorus of “Bloodline” explains that she’s “not tryna make you all mine”—seemingly saying that while she’s enjoying their relationship, she doesn’t want it to result in starting a family.
“I ain’t lookin’ for my one true love / Yeah, that ship sailed away.” Whether it’s Miller or Davidson who’s Grande’s “true love,” it doesn’t sound like she’ll be rekindling any flames with Davidson any time soon.