It may sound like a typical hit pop song melody, but it’s so much more.
If you Google Ariana Grande on a normal day, most of the top stories are about her high ponytail. You wouldn’t really expect this bubbly pop star to be a total badass. But after she released her newest single, “Thank U, Next” on Saturday night, it’s clear that she’s hardcore.
The song immediately starts with name-dropping four of her exes, which is already a bold move. Big Sean, Ricky Alvarez, Pete Davidson and Malcolm McCormick (aka Mac Miller) are all named within the first four lines of the song—no ambiguity; she straight up says their names.
But what makes it amazing is that she doesn’t tear them apart or put them down. She thanks them and explains how she’s grown from them. “One taught me love, one taught me patience, one taught me pain, now I’m so amazing,” she sings in the first verse—instantly transforming this song into one of the classiest forms of dissing I’ve ever heard.
What’s more punk rock than putting down your enemies by showing how tough you are through your music? She’s thanking all her exes for all the crap they put her through, because she came out stronger.
The song dropped just a half-hour before Saturday Night Live aired, the comedy show her most recent ex Davidson is on. Earlier that week an SNL promo was aired previewing a skit based on their breakup. After backlash from Grande (via now-deleted tweets) and fans on social media, Davidson cut the skit. But still, there’s nothing like psyching your ex out right before they go on live television.
You’d think that would come off petty or dramatic on Grande’s part, but the song doesn’t put down anyone in any way. It promotes punk rock values like being true to yourself, not giving a fuck about what people say about you and laughing in the face of post-breakup pettiness. It’s all about empowerment and never forgetting to love yourself even through all the bullshit you have to go through in relationships.
“I’ve got so much love, I’ve got so much patience, I’ve learned from the pain and turned out amazing,” she sings with passion and confidence. “I’m so fucking grateful for my ex. Thank you, next.”
Punk rock has evolved since its height in popularity during the 1970s and ‘80s with gritty bands like The Ramones, The Clash and Black Flag putting it on the map. Now, it’s more than just the sound of fast guitar and drums with guttural screams. The genre holds values like being yourself and supporting others while doing so. Is that not what Grande is doing in this song?
“Thank U, Next” sings about still having love for yourself while going through hard times and encourages all the listeners to do the same. And that’s punk rock as hell.