The near-union of Pete Davidson and Ariana Grande wasn’t good for me. As a fan of both celebrities individually, their sudden and unexpected fairytale romance shocked me, at first, and then consumed me. I didn’t just double-tap their sweet, mutually-affectionate Instagram posts and move on with my life (as I very well should have), but I once caught myself watching a six-minute Youtube compilation of the couple’s “cutest moments.” Spoiler alert: VERY cute.
I try not to define women by their relationship statuses because I’m a feminist and also not a monster, but I must shamefully admit that my appreciation for Grande skyrocketed following her new relationship. I’d been a fan of Davidson for a while, mostly because of his impressive performance on SNL, but following a series of crude, even by his standards, comments about their relationship (and then some more, and then some more), my feelings changed. So last week, when Ariana released “thank u, next,” I had a lot of thoughts to unpack. Here are a few:
The thematic significance of “thank u, next” is threefold. Firstly, it directly contrasts with Big Dick Energy, hereby referred to as BDE (my mom might read this). BDE was an era and a slang term that took the internet by storm and was vastly overused to describe Pete back when their relationship took off. The term generally refers to an understated level of confidence, and its aforementioned overuse put the spotlight on Pete, rendering Ariana mere arm candy in the grand scheme of their relationship.
Let’s talk about this. Talented female figures in the entertainment industry have a long history of being recognized for their love interests rather than their art, but for the love of God ... really? Ariana Grande is hugely-talented and highly-decorated, and Pete Davidson makes mediocre jokes and has a face that serves as the butt of a lot of them. The release of “thank u, next” illustrates the dispensability of the BDE phenomenon. Ariana is proving that she’s the one with true BDE, but, because she lacks the D, has rebranded the term to “thank u, next.” Additionally, she released the single just minutes before a new episode of SNL aired; if that isn’t BDE, I don’t know what is.
Secondly, our current social climate has proven that women in entertainment carry vast potential to spark social change. With her lyrics, Grande voices themes of empowerment and the importance of recognizing one’s own value. Take the chorus, for example: "I've got so much love (love) Got so much patience (patience) I've learned from the pain (pain) I turned out amazing (turned out amazing)." Gone are the days when we listened raptly as Taylor Swift cranked out banger after banger about failed love; Ariana is proving that women are so much more than their relationship statuses. On top of that, the song’s title cuts right to the chase. There’s no time to waste capitalizing, or spelling out the word “you.” Grande’s message is clear: recognize the impact of those who have helped you grow, and leave those who haven’t behind.