It’s hard to go too many days without seeing Ariana Grande’s name in the news; the storm over her “Japanese grill” tattoo overshadowed the release of Thank U, Next, her follow-up to Sweetener, which came out only six months ago.
Imagine opens the record with a minimal trap soul, while Grande delivers a breathy FKA Twigs-like vocal with fast-paced soundbites, “Click, click and post/ Quick, quick, let’s go,” before belting out the chorus, “Imagine a world like that,” allowing a glimmer of optimism to shine through. Needy has similar stylings, but the soulful edge is later overtaken by an unexpected string quartet, which adds an element of sophistication to the mix.
The most moving track is the deeply personal Ghostin’, with its fading, windswept synth chords. Thought to relate to both her ex-boyfriend Mac Miller, who died last year, and her ex-fiancé Pete Davidson, it features hard-hitting lines such as “He just comes to visit me/When I’m dreaming every now and then”. This contrasts hugely with the title track, which brims with K-pop playfulness and hope: “I know they say I move on too fast/But this one will last.”
The rest of the album is fairly forgettable. Bloodline and Fake Smile delve into dub ska, while Bad Idea is densely layered, and varied , but doesn’t really stick in the mind. A lot of these tracks are gunning for moody trap and R’n’B but all end up being pretty one-dimensional, before 7 Rings as good as slaughters the Sound Of Music classic My Favourite Things in an attempt to modernise it for this century.
For someone who has a knack for grabbing headlines, there are surprisingly few talking points here.