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When I first heard Ariana Grande’s "Thank U, Next" I teared up. It wasn’t her paying homage to Mac Miller or her optimistic outlook on marriage that caused the waterworks. Instead it was the lines, “But this one gonn' last. 'Cause her name is Ari. And I'm so good with that.”
It is clear to see that Ariana Grande has had a tough year: From the calling off of her engagement, to still feeling the heartbreaking effects of what happened in Manchester, to coming to terms with the death of Mac Miller. But through all of this, "Thank U, Next" is an anthem promoting strength and self-love. Grande has risen above the mountains most would stop at, singing soulfully that she doesn’t need a man by her side to be a warrior. Ariana Grande has proved to herself (and the world) that as long as you love yourself, you can overcome any hurdle that life places before you.
Even though there are iconic references to early 2000s films in her video for "Thank U Next," Grande doesn’t strip the song of its meaning by taking on the personas from classic rom-coms. If anything, the video only enhances the power of the song. Notice the films Grande chose: Mean Girls, Legally Blonde, and 13 Going on 30—to name a few. All of these films are about women overcoming challenges, whether it be lost identity, equality in education, stereotypes associated with women, or the pressure to grow up quickly. Watching this video made me reflect on how Ariana used her voice to speak on social issues with a feministic approach through a music video, but in such a way that it was more nostalgic than preachy. By watching this video, not only was I reliving my childhood, but I also realized why we needed such a female-oriented video during a time where men dominate not only pop culture, but daily life. Particularly, in relationships.
"Thank U, Next" rang true to me once I really sat down and listened to it. 2018 was not the year of love or relationships for me. I’ve had a tough time this year. I’ve had my heart broken a million times over by boys who just weren’t worth my time. I’d lost myself so deeply into multiple people this year, as I attempted to save them. *Queue Ari’s tweet about how women should not feel obligated to stay in toxic relationships with men who can’t seem to ground themselves.* I’ve overstepped boundaries with myself and put up walls to shut out those telling me to let go of the toxic boys. It doesn’t just apply to men, though. For me "Thank U, Next" expresses the freedom in leaving draining friendships and deciding to move on. Along with crappy boys, there were a few people I’d encountered this year that just didn’t fit well into my life. Some were negative, self-centered, and demanding. Others were judgmental and non-supportive.
I just couldn’t seem to find the will to continue communicating and exhuming energy on such a tiresome friendship, so I cut them off.
Listening to "Thank U, Next" after a year filled with confusion, lost identity, and silenced screams as I navigated the waters of sexism, mental health, racism, colorism, and overall just plain pain, I realized that these words were the ones I needed to hear to let go. The song doesn’t bash any of Grande’s exes, as I thought it originally would just by hearing the title. In contrast, Grande embraces the ups and downs she had with her past relationships and is appreciative that they happened. She specifically says things like:
“And for Pete I’m so thankful” and “I’m so f----- grateful for my ex.”
"Thank U, Next" caused me to step back and realize that I don’t deserve to wallow in the regret of what I could’ve changed with both past relationships and friendships. It taught me that every day is a new start, and that no one really cares that I kissed this person at the beginning of the year or held back with that person. I am the only one that was clinging on to all of these “mistakes.” I was the only one thinking I couldn’t possibly move on after how things ended with certain people. When, in reality, I proved my courage just by forgiving the person. There wasn’t any need to put all of the blame on myself, nor is it necessary to blame the other person. The bravest thing you can do is simply move on and release the hurt.
Now, "Thank U, Next" is a part of my daily routine and I listen to it as soon as I wake up. I jam out to it while I’m making breakfast. It becomes the soundtrack for the few moments when I’m trying to pick out an outfit or brushing my hair. I also listen to it just before heading out and blast it right when I’m about to go to sleep. "Thank U, Next" is far from a revenge-on-my-exes pop song we’ve all heard before. Rather, it is a hymn from Goddess Grande to always put yourself first and be empowered by your heartbreak.