This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #25: Thank U, Next by Ariana Grande.
In our previous post, we reviewed how it came to be that my daughters became involved in this countdown process but, suffice it to say, both were equally unimpressed with a countdown that consisted of songs recorded and released when their grandparents were young, such as Elvis, Chuck Berry, Aretha Franklin and The Beatles. So, as you know, both girls were challenged to provide me with a list of their own Top Ten music choices; songs that they believed better spoke to the times in which we find ourselves. While Leah’s list had a little bit of this and a little bit of that, Sophie’s list stayed fairly true to her contention that the only good songs are today’s songs. Her list of Top Ten songs included Taylor Swift, Shawn Mendes, American Authors, The Jonas Brothers, Bruno Mars, Olivia Rodrigo, three by Ariana Grande (No Tears (Left To Cry), Successful, 7 Rings plus, today’s post) and one throwback song by the incomparable, Joan Jett.
In the case of a majority of the songs that Sophie decided to include on her own, personal Top Ten list, she tends to gravitate toward songs that have a good “vibe”, as she likes to call it. When asked to define the word, “vibe”; Sophie stated that it means songs that sound good but that also have a good message and, finally, that are polished and well put-together. When it comes to songs with a good “vibe” none rate any higher than “Thank U, Next” by her pal, Ariana Grande.
When I asked Sophie what it was that made “Thank U, Next” her top song, she became more animated than she had for any previous song. For starters, she was very impressed that, in this day and age of marketing and information overload via Social Media, Ariana Grande was able to “drop” this song without any advance warning. Sophie said the sudden appearance of the song was so unexpected. It was almost as if she had been given a treasured gift, out of the blue.
Next in line of importance was how cleverly constructed the music video for “Thank U, Next” actually is. I could probably write this whole post just about the music video but, for the sake of brevity, let me just say this: The concept for this video is to pay homage to four iconic movies of the early 2000s (“Mean Girls”, “Legally Blonde”, “13 Going On 30” and “Bring It On”). In her video, Grande plays the lead characters in each of these movies, as she re-creates famous scenes from each film. However, that is only the beginning of what made this video special; so much so that it set a YouTube record for the most downloads and streams in a 24-hour period, with well over 50 million views!!! As Grande works her way through these iconic movie scenes, she populates the background of each scene with a veritable smorgasbord of cultural details from earlier in her own career, from the careers of other famous people, as well as, many cultural touchstone references. Critics who watched the video declared it to be one of the most culturally significant music videos of the decade. Not surprisingly, it won “Video of the Year” in every award show in which it was nominated.
The song, itself, is about a string of ex-boyfriends that Ariana Grande has famously dated. In the hands of someone like Taylor Swift, ex-boyfriends tend to become fodder for female empowerment songs that revolve around the sentiment of, “you did me wrong but I will stay strong”. In “Thank U, Next”, she gives the topic of ex-boyfriends a differing take and one, quite frankly, that I espouse to, as well. In “Thank U, Next”, Grande lists the various men she has dated and, instead of putting them down or being negative, she thanks them to adding to the fabric of her life and for helping to make her the person she is today. For me, I never dwell in the past when it comes to former girlfriends but, I readily acknowledge that my time spent with them helped me learn how to be a better man so that when Keri (my wife) eventually showed up in my life, I was ready to be who she needed me to be. If not for those prior experiences, I would have been a different man than who I was and, maybe, just maybe, life would be completely different than it has turned out to be. So, like Ariana Grande, I am grateful to those who came before the one who was meant to be.
One of the reasons why “Thank U, Next” is such a clever song and why the video for it has made such an impact has a lot to do with how society functions these days. We are Social Media junkies. Many of us could speak more knowledgeably about the Kardashians of the world than we could about global politics or the intricacies of arguments for Climate Change policies. Like it or not, Social Media is how many people interact with the outside world and it has become the #1 source for news for many as well. Therefore, when someone like Ariana Grande, who has grown up in the public eye on TV and on stage, creates a song about her dating life, she is, in fact, taking millions of people on a cultural trip down a newer, more modern version of Memory Lane. Her life, and those of other celebrities, have become intertwined with our own lives and, as such, her life is our life, too. The fact that I know more about her and the recent relationship she had with comedian, Pete Davidson, from Saturday Night Live, than I do about many of the people who live on my own street, tells me all that I need to know about how information-oriented and celebrity-centric our lives have become. The song and video for “Thank U, Next” is a masterclass in how integrated our information streams have become and how unreal our reality is turning out to be.
As Sophie navigates through the world that exists through her own experiences, her job becomes one of tempering the fantasy aspects of Social Media and borrowing from it, the proper elements that will help her to thrive in the real world in which she has to function. For her, Ariana Grande is a success story. She is beautiful, without having to resort to nudity. She is talented; in the world of music and on TV. She is powerful; in the sense that she has created a business for herself and is in complete charge of the content of her work and her public image. Finally, Ariana Grande presents as being a positive person and that counts for a lot when it comes to Sophie.
As I look at Sophie, I see someone who cares about her appearance, who is very intelligent, talented and creative and, most importantly of all, I see a person who possesses good character, is a good friend to others and who expects to be treated with respect, in reply. I am thankful that I get to spend my days with her. For that, I am very lucky. So, thanks, Sophie, for being part of this musical countdown journey of ours. I applaud your song choices and your reasons for choosing them. Thanks to all of you reading this post for your kindness and support shown toward Sophie, as well. I will end this post, as I did with Leah, by reminding Sophie that she is deeply and unconditionally loved.
Without further delay, here is Sophie’s #1 song choice…..”Thank U, Next” by her pal, Ariana Grande. Enjoy.
The link to the video for “Thank U, Next” by Ariana Grande, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Ariana Grande, can be found here.