Ariana Grande's Thank U, Next Has a Host of Samples and Stars Who Helped Make It Happen

Six months after the release of her fourth album, Sweetener, Ariana Grande decided to shirk the standard wait time between musical projects and dropped her follow-up — the featureless 12-song album Thank U, Next.

While Sweetener was the epitome of finding the light after the darkness, Thank U, Next is a very different approach for Grande. With help from a team of producers and writers that include tour-mate Victoria Monét, the album combines the singer's vocals with several perfectly selected samples from artists like *NSYNC and classic musicals like The Sound of Music to produce a roller coaster of emotional jams that are heartbreakingly relatable. While she may be the only lead vocal on each track, Grande's team (who range from frequent collaborators like Max Martin and Ilya Salmanzadeh to the budding star that is her grandmother Marjorie Grande) has perfectly engineered each song to convey an overall theme of trying to handle heartache and that difficult journey.

Grande hinted at the album's direction in an interview with Billboard last year. She explained that the underlying sadness in the album stems from the hardships she faced during 2018 (her breakup with Pete Davidson and the death of her ex-boyfriend Mac Miller). Grande said Thank U, Next is "not particularly uplifting" and that "a lot of it sounds really upbeat, but it's actually a super sad chapter."

Though the album is arguably one of her most cohesive and mature-sounding, there's something undeniably sorrowful about it. Even with playful jams like the title track, "7 Rings," and the recently released "Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I'm Bored," the quieter ballads like "Imagine" and "Ghostin" reveal how very forlorn the entire project is. Considering the album was majorly written in one week following the dissolution of her engagement and weeks after Miller's death, it's not a surprise.

However, the overall melancholy tone of the album doesn't take away its brilliance as a package or when studying each track individually. Thank U, Next tells the story of a woman who's been through terrible tragedies and is baring all the messiness that comes with it. She's distraught and all over the place, but she's doing it with a flair that you can't deny or be mad about.

Join me for a track-by-track guide to whose music was sampled and which stars helped Grande create what may definitely be her best album — so far.

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This wistful, longing track serves as the opener and theme-setter of the album. Singer-songwriter Priscilla Renea has a cowriting credit and is well-known for cowriting several hit singles like "Worth It" by Fifth Harmony, Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood's duet "Somethin' Bad," and "Love So Soft" by Kelly Clarkson.



While Grande has made a note to let her listeners know that she's unapologetically "Greedy," this time around, she's admitting that her desires can be too much in the plaintively honest "Needy." Tommy Brown, aka TB Hits, is a frequent collaborator of Grande's and has cowriting and production credits on multiple Thank U, Next tracks, including "Needy."



The anthem of loners and unabashed introverts everywhere, "NASA" is full of fun plays on words in a quest to get some space. The opening lines are spoken by Shangela Laquifa Wadley, a drag queen known for her appearances on RuPaul's Drag Race. As Shangela put it, "As an @ArianaGrande Stan, it's mind-blowing to be a part of this new album. Gagged. Geeked. GONE. Get it now. And go in on track 3 #NASA!!!"



Sometimes we can't help but indulge in what makes us feel good, even when we know they're not right, and "Bloodline" gets that. Grande's beloved Nonna — aka her grandmother Marjorie — delivers the intro for this recording and adds a precious familial touch to the album.


"Fake Smile"

The bluntly fed-up track features a sample from the 1964 single "After Laughter" by Tennessee soul singer Wendy Rene. The song actually has a long history in hip-hop and rap, most notably being featured in Wu-Tang Clan's "After the Laughter Comes Tears."


"Bad Idea"

The cautionary jam about wanting to act out on bad ideas to numb the pain of the past features the dulcet tones of Mattias Johansson's violin. Johansson has actually worked with Grande before on her album Dangerous Woman.

The song's chorus also includes backup vocalists calling Grande "Ari-chan." Chan is a Japanese san used as a term of endearment, which isn't the first time the singer has included Japanese culture in her music or videos.


"Make Up"

The shortest track on the album still manages to make a splash by name-dropping Rihanna's makeup brand Fenty Beauty with a clever play on words with relationships and beauty products.



By far the most personal and heartbreaking song on the album, "Ghostin" divulges Grande's battle handling Miller's death and her relationship with Davidson. The song also directly samples Miller's 2018 song "2009."


"In My Head"

Doug Middlebrook delivers the introduction to this woeful track that laments the poor decision of falling for the version of someone you created in your mind rather than who they truly are.

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"7 Rings"

The rich-b*tch energy that "7 Rings" exudes makes this track a certifiable bop, along with the overall theme of celebrating female friendships. The record was written by Grande, Kaydence, Njomza Vitia, Tayla Parx, and Victoria Monét and interpolates "My Favorite Things," written by Rodgers & Hammerstein. It spawned an ASL version, some dance choreography, and some controversy as well.

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"Thank U, Next"

Possibly the most iconic single drop from Grande to date, "Thank U, Next" was the breakup anthem that no one expected but we all loved. The music video alone broke records and had so many hidden details, we're still shook.

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"Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I'm Bored"

Grande insists that the supercatchy bop isn't about anyone in particular, but that isn't going to stop it from being anyone's favorite track on the record. "Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I'm Bored" interpolates "Makes Me Ill" written by Kandi Burruss and Kevin Briggs for *NSYNC's No Strings Attached album, and the combo truly makes a pop record for the times.