Thank u, Ariana Grande and Carly Rae Jepsen.
This past weekend, the two pop divas released singles centered around self-love and empowerment.
First came Jepsen on Thursday, with the instant hit “Party For One.” Then Saturday night, Grande’s surprise release: “Thank U, Next,” an ode to her exes, a half-hour before her former-fiancé Pete Davidson took the stage on “SNL.”
Critics were quick to call Grande’s move petty, especially after she criticized Davidson on Twitter for mentioning their breakup in a promo for the show. But Grande let listeners know her intentions with the lyrics of her song, all about learning from her past experiences and growing as an individual.
It’s a message that’s resonating with a large crowd: She’s broken her own record two days in a row for most single-day streams for a female artist on Spotify — garnering 8.2 million streams Monday (topping Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” at 7.9 million), and then another 8.5 million Tuesday. Jepsen’s music video has almost 4 million views on YouTube.
The songs read like love letters to the women who sing them.
In Grande’s, she name-drops her four high-profile exes, thanking them for helping her learn and grow: Rapper Big Sean, who she dated in 2015, backup dancer Ricky Alverez, the “sh - - ty boyfriend” she fired manager Scooter Braun over, whirlwind fiancé Pete Davidson and rapper Mac Miller, who passed away in September.
Jepsen, famously known for her 2012 smash “Call Me, Maybe,” returned to the charts with this much-less-desperate single. Instead of craving the attention of someone else, she sings: “Party for one/ if you don’t care about me/ making love to myself/ back on my beat.”
In the lyrics, she croons about not being over someone who doesn’t treat her well and finding the strength to be enough for herself, instead of looking for a replacement love. It’s an upbeat dance track that’s legitimately motivating yet also silly and freeing, a rare space for mainstream pop to occupy.
Like Jepsen, Grande’s song is about growing from her pain and the people who have been in her life, and finding out that she can get through the worst alone.
“I got so much love/ I got so much patience/ I’ve learned from the pain/ and turned out amazing/ I’ve loved and I’ve lost/ but that’s not what I see/ Look what I’ve found/ No need for searching.”
Both songs are, no surprise, absolutely catchy. But it’s their content that will propel them from trendy singles to long-living anthems.
Pop music, especially when made by women, is often looked at as frivolous and lacking in craft. It’s seen as music for young girls, an audience that isn’t looking for nuance or dedication in what they listen to, only a catchy beat. These listeners and artists have been long overlooked and deserve to be taken seriously, which is exactly what Grande and Jepsen are doing.
Don’t mistake their coincidental release timing as just chance: This is music for the movement, for a new generation of listeners. Not every song has to be a rally cry for self-love, and not every love song is worthless.
But this refreshing message fills a void.
Grande and Jepsen have shown in their music and in their lives that you can have fun, fall hopelessly in love, make mistakes and do it all again. You don’t have to be a loner, but you can make it on your own. And that’s something worth singing about.
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