Last night, Ariana Grande was honored as Billboard’s 2018 Woman of the Year in New York City. The past twelve months have been monumental for Grande’s career; releasing her fourth studio album, scoring her first number one Billboard 100 song with “Thank U, Next,” and putting out a corresponding music video that made Youtube viewership history. Along the way, her fans have consumed and obsessed over every single, music video, and Instagram post the singer had shared with the world.
In an interview with Billboard before the ceremony’s start last night, Grande revealed more about the creation of “Thank U, Next” and its now-iconic video, and specifically why she selected early millennium favorites films to create the video’s storyline.
“These movies were the ones that we picked because each has a lead character who goes through a breakup and becomes a better version of themselves in it, so they went with the story more,” said Grande. “I would have loved to have put more. I’m a big Crossroads fan, a big Girl, Interrupted fan, which would have been really sick—but if I had gone with my favorite movies it wouldn’t have made any sense.” Crossroads was Britney Spears' 2002 film about traveling the country with two girlfriends, while Girl, Interrupted was Winona Ryder's 1999 film about a young girl who ends up in a mental institution.
Grande also revealed that she didn’t expect “Thank U, Next” to be her first number one, considering the song was written and conceptualized.
“I wrote [Thank U, Next] with my friends while we were just tipsy in the studio and I was going through a pretty rough period, and you know writing this album with them and with so many people that I love, has been a huge helping factor in my healing process and in feeling better,” said Grande of the process behind making the hit song. “It’s really easy to write a song that is sexy and fun and kinda about nothing but I’m happy that this was a song that meant so much more to me that I made with my girls.”
Aside from the song’s alcohol-induced creation and its cute pop-forward beat and catchy lyrics, “Thank U, Next,” as Grande explained, was at its core, a cathartic songwriting experience that happened at the exact moment it was meant to—as well as the song’s surprise release.
While Grande’s team and management stressed over the song’s release—finding the perfect day, time and way to carve out its debut—Grande fought to have it released right away, on a Saturday, with little promotion aside from a constant stream of tweets. The reason, she quipped, was “to put an end to the [media’s] bullshit” — referencing the industry’s obsession over the when, where and why’s of her and Pete Davidson’s breakup.
After seeing and experiencing the full-throttle success of the single—shooting to number one, the hilarious twitter memes, and the unprecedented anticipation for the music video—it proved to Grande that her success could be on her terms, rather than releasing work adhering to the industry’s cookie-cutter standards.
“The point of it [was] to take back my narrative and express how I’m feeling and put a stop to all this bullshit,” she said. “It’s not fair, letting the media take little things and running with it. That was the intention behind it." Adding, “It turned out being this beautiful thing and I think that goes to show that the more honest you are [and] the less fucks you give, it really might turn out to be a beautiful thing for you.”