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Ariana Grande started her career as a Nickelodeon star. With four solo albums and one on the way (not to mention her two Christmas ventures), Ariana Grande has long since graduated to pop icon. Her iconic high pony, affinity for doll-like fashion, and sultry sweetness coupled with her very public dating life, have made her a pop culture phenomenon as well.

In case you hadn’t heard, Ariana Grande was very publicly dating and seemingly deeply in love with Mac Miller. After two years together, the couple broke up reportedly due to his struggles with sobriety. Very soon after that, Ariana started dating Pete Davidson of SNL, and they embarked on a whirlwind summer romance that culminated in an engagement. Then, Mac Miller died, and her engagement to Pete Davidson ended. I’m not saying these things are correlated, but really, they probably are…

From Mac Miller’s death to her broken engagement and the Manchester Arena bombing in 2017, you could say that Ariana Grande has been through a lot lately. It’s no wonder that she is ready to let it all go and move on.

Enter her latest single: “Thank U, Next.”

“Thank U, Next” is a banger of a song about Ariana’s love life and her hopes for the future. It is not a f*** you song. It’s a song filled with love and positivity. In the first verse of the song she says, “One taught me love; one taught me patience; And one taught me pain. Now I’m so amazing.”

Can we let that sink in? Ariana Grande calls out all of her past lovers by name just to say that she’s grateful for them because she is doing amazing now, sweetie. “Thank U, Next” is a healthy expression of love, loss and moving on, and we can certainly all learn something from her attitude.

Of course, when it came time to express herself further in the music video for the song, it is only appropriate that she chose to use some of the greatest rom-coms of our generation as a reference point. The movies she incorporated into her video include Mean Girls, Bring it On, Legally Blonde, and 13 Going on 30.

Mean Girls References

We should take note that in her Mean Girls segment which opens the video, Ariana Grande as Regina George has her own Burn Book, but as she’s flipping the pages, you notice that it says nice things about the guys she’s dated. She’s moving on by jotting down what she gained through each relationship, focusing on the good, since she put the bad behind her in breaking up with them. While actually burning your exes things is cathartic and should probably be step one in the moving on process, this is definitely the healthiest thing I have ever seen.

And throughout the whole video is a sense of joy and release and celebration of herself, women, and these iconic films—all of which feature some great “thank you, but NEXT” relationships.

Legally Blonde References

There’s of course Warner in Legally Blonde who tells Elle Woods that she isn’t smart enough for him, and she proves him wrong by kicking ass at Harvard Law and meeting a caring, supportive man named Emmett along the way who clears a path for her to make a name for herself and win her first big case.

Bring It On References

In Bring it On, Torrence has an older boyfriend named Aaron, who cheats on her while away at college and does not support her or believe in her abilities as cheer captain. Torrence goes on to take her team to Nationals, dump Aaron, and move on with Cliff Pantone, the caring, sweet brother of one of her teammates who does believe in her and makes her a mixtape.

The other two movies are a little different. In both Mean Girls and 13 Going on 30, while they eventually have great boyfriends like the former films, the real “Thank U, Next” goes to themselves. In Mean Girls, Cady loses her way while embedding with The Plastics and becomes the very bully she was working to destroy, and in 13 Going on 30, Jenna’s wish of becoming “Thirty, Flirty, and Thriving” comes true, only for her to discover that while she has everything she ever wanted, it’s come at the cost of her soul. In the end, both women find their way back to themselves, and it’s clear here that Ariana is trying to do the same.

What It All Means

Ariana pays homage to these movies and characters by creating a lush, dreamy music video that emphasizes her womanhood. Though she appears over-airbrushed in the video, it’s chock full of her girl-y sensibilities and fun attitude showcased by the choreography of the cheerleading sideline routine and the Mean Girls “Jingle Bell Rock” dance number as well as the Bend ‘n Snap which brings everyone together in a dance party all its own.

The end of the video features a variety of goofs in the sideline routine and the Mean Girls number in a way that seems to celebrate female friendship which is something the video emphasizes along with self love.

Arguably, the biggest key to moving on is self love. In Bring it On, Cliff sends Torrence a mixtape that includes a song that he wrote to help inspire her to create a new routine for Nationals. In this video, the tape reads: “To Ari, From Ari.”

“Thank U, Next” isn’t a fuck you song, but it also isn’t a love letter to Ariana’s exes. It’s a love letter to Ariana herself and all that she has left to look forward to. She’s “got so much love, got so much patience” and has learned from her pain, and now she’s amazing! Because she’s turning her eyes toward herself as the relationship she wants to prioritize. And you should too!

A few other stray observations about the video:

  • Ariana references Pete Davidson’s infamous BDE (big dick energy).
  • Not only does Ariana take her icon status and raise it by adding these iconic movies, she then raises it again by including Kris Jenner, Kardashian Tycoon, in a role that she wholly inhabits in her daily life.
  • The music video was directed by a woman—Hannah Lux Davis
  • If you’re wondering what the female gaze is… This is it!

Thank U, Next, bitch!

Sydney Mineer

Sydney Mineer believes in Harvey Dent. She is the #1 bull terrier spotter in Los Angeles and is fluent in both Seinfeld and Spongebob references.

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