"Thank U, Next" is a self-empowerment song in which Ariana Grande looks back at some of her past relationships. She expresses gratitude to her exes for having helped her to find herself.
The relationships that Grande references are her ones with:
1. Rapper Big Sean
Thought I'd end up with Sean But he wasn’t a match
The pair started dating in August 2014 and broke up in April 2015
2. Ariana's backup dancer Ricky Alvarez.
Wrote some songs about Ricky Now I listen and laugh
Ariana is said to have written "Knew Better/Forever Boy" "True Love" and "Moonlight" about Ricky.
3. The late Mac Miller
Wish I could say thank you to Malcolm Cause he was an angel
Grande's two-year relationship with Malcolm "Mac Miller" McCormick ended in May 2018, four months before his death.
4. Saturday Night Live comedian Pete Davidson
Even almost got married And for Pete I'm so thankful
Ariana started dating the comedian and actor in May 2018. They got engaged the following month, and the singer penned a love song titled "Pete Davidson" that appeared on her Sweetener album. The pair ended their relationship in October 2018.
The song's release may have been prompted by a promotional clip for the November 3, 2018 episode of Saturday Night Live in which Pete Davidson jokingly proposed to the show's musical guest, singer Maggie Rogers. Grande responded by tweeting "for somebody who claims to hate relevancy you sure love clinging to it huh," followed by "thank u, next." This song was then dropped a half-hour before the Saturday Night Live episode was broadcast.
Grande told a fan that "Thank U, Next" is a phrase that she and her friend and frequent co-writer Victoria Monét often say.
Later on in the self-care song, Grande sings about finding contentment in her own company. She explained that "Thank U, Next" is about "a new chapter" in her life that encompasses "gratitude, growth, embracing our paths bumps n' all."
The ode to her exes was Ariana Grande's first #1 on the Hot 100. The singer's previous best ranking song had been her Iggy Azalea collaboration "Problem," which peaked at #2 in 2014.
The song originated with a session that producer Tommy Brown ("Be Alright", "Let Me Love You") had with Social House, an act comprising Pittsburgh natives Michael "Mikey" Foster and Charles "Scootie" Anderson. He recalled to Billboard he was "bouncing ideas around" with Foster and Anderson, when one of them played him a loop of some chords which he loved. So they sped it up and took it to a songwriting session he had planned with Grande and her co-writers Victoria Monet and Tayla Parx. The rest was history.
The Hannah Lux Davis-directed throwback video finds Grande referencing her favorite teen movies, including Mean Girls, Legally Blonde, Bring It On and 13 Going On 30.
The clip features a cameo from one of Mean Girls' original stars, Jonathan Bennett, who played heartthrob Aaron Samuels. Reality star Kris Jenner, singer-songwriter Troye Sivan, Legally Blonde actress Jennifer Coolidge, Arina's half-brother Frankie Grand and comidienne Colleen Ballinger also join in on the re-enactments.
829,000 fans streamed the video simultaneously when it was debuted, breaking YouTube's premiere record.
During the scene in the music video where Grande is driving a convertible, "7 Rings" appears on the license plate. The mysterious reference prompted a number of rumors before the singer explained she is teasing the title of a song on her Thank U Next album.
Part of the plot of Mean Girls is "The Burn Book," an old journal of queen bee Regina George, which is filled with secrets and insults about her classmates and teachers. The video for this song features a close-up of a diary similar to the "Burn Book" in which Grande writes about some of her past boyfriends.
Speaking with Billboard's Jason Lipshutz of how the video's concept came together, Grande revealed that she was playing Hannah Lux Davis the song, and the singer instantly saw the Burn Book in her mind.
"I was like, you know what would be really cool? If the beginning was me putting the boys in the Burn Book, but writing positive things about them, cause that's kind of what this feels like," she said. "This feels like a diary entry."
The song set a new UK streaming record during its fifth week at #1 on the Official Singles Chart. The track racked up 14.9 million streams that week, 7.9 million of which were from its newly released music video. It overtook Ed Sheeran's "Shape Of You," which notched 14.2 million streams in a single week in 2017.
Ariana Grande had to change the lyrics to "Thank U, Next" a couple of times because she kept breaking up and getting back together with Pete Davidson. She told radio host Zach Sang: "In my relationship (with Pete) at the time, things were like up and down and on and off, and so I didn't know what was going to happen and then we got back together, so I had to make a different version of it, and then we broke up again, so we ended up going with that verse.
There's a version where I was getting married, there's a version where I'm not getting married, there's a version with nothing - we're not talking about anything," Grande continued. "But we all knew that the first version was gonna be the version we ultimately went with."
On one of the versions, Grande decided not to mention any names and instead addressed media speculation of her relationships, with lyrics like "I've had too many boyfriends" and "say I'm too young."
"It still was like, OK, I'm embracing my mistakes and what I've done... but it was just less direct," she said. "And everyone, including me, was kind of like, 'this is not the version.' But I was also trying to be protective, you know?"
Taylor Parx first worked with Ariana Grande in 2014 when she helped her pen the title track of her My Everything album. They reconnected in late 2018 and Parxx worked with Grande on her Thank U Next album.
Parxx explained to Billboard that the title track was inspired by HBO documentary Jane Fonda in Five Acts: "Every chapter was a man she had been with, and the final chapter was 'Jane.'"