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"thank u, next" and the Allure of the Breakup Anthem

"thank u, next" and the Allure of the Breakup Anthem

Ariana Grande’s “thank u, next”, a song chronicling her past relationships and her journey to self-empowerment, has resonated with broken hearts worldwide, garnering millions of streams daily. The song is unique in the breakup song genre in that it both focuses on Grande’s personal growth and her love and appreciation for the loves that didn’t last. She states,

Plus, I met someone else
We havin' better discussions
I know they say I move on too fast
But this one gon' last
'Cause her name is Ari
And I'm so good with that (So good with that)

She artfully blends self love and the ability to reflect on things that didn’t work out, not regretting them but instead using them to make herself that much more “amazing.

Ariana Grande’s zen approach to a breakup is certainly healthy and ideal for self growth, but not everyone with a broken heart can see that light at the end of the tunnel right away. The breakup song is one of the most enduring musical tropes because it straddles the two most relatable feelings: love and pain.

Music, as a reflection of the truest human emotions, has shown time and time again that sometimes you have to go through those sad, mad, and vengeful feelings before reaching Grande’s purported relationship nirvana. Here are a few songs to help along the way:


Cry it out: “Un-break My Heart” - Toni Braxton

For when the floodgates need to break free: the ultimate heartache anthem, “Un-Break My Heart” is moody and pleading, as Toni Braxton croons for a lost love. People have been crying to this song in the shower for the decades. For maximum angst, the video features a montage of happy times with Braxton’s said lost love, and heart wrenching shower crying.

Key lyrics: “Take back that sad word goodbye / Bring back the joy to my life”

See also: “Back To Black” (Amy Winehouse), “The Scientist” (Coldplay), “I Will Always Love You” (Whitney Houston)


Hell hath no fury: “Before He Cheats” - Carrie Underwood

For the scorned: Country lovers and haters unite under this song and its perfect encapsulation of rage. When venting isn’t enough, sometimes stuff needs to get broken.

Key lyrics: “I dug my key into the side / Of his pretty little souped up four-wheel drive / Carved my name into his leather seats”

See also: “Hit Em Up Style” (Blu Cantrell), “Cry Me A River” (Justin Timberlake), “So What” (P!nk)


Middle fingers up: “Irreplaceable” - Beyoncé

For those who are severely over it: the queen of musical self empowerment, Beyoncé’s breakup philosophy preaches that there are plenty of fish in the sea, and if your fish doesn’t appreciate you then he’s got to go. No man is worth feeling any less than flawless, because they’re all simply replaceable.

Key lyrics: “So since I'm not your everything / How about I'll be nothing / Nothing at all to you”

See also: “Potential Breakup Song” (Aly & AJ), “Tainted Love” (Soft Cell), “These Boots Are Made For Walking” (Nancy Sinatra)


I’m better off: “Fighter” - Christina Aguilera

For those who came out of the other side fiercer than ever: Christina Aguilera inverts the “thank u, next” message of empowerment from the relationship, with the strength coming from learning from the bad times to make herself tougher. Not the harmonious growth Ariana promoted but equally as powerful.

Key Lyrics: “Cause if it wasn't for all that you tried to do / I wouldn't know just how capable I am to pull through / So I want to say thank you”

See also: “I Will Survive” (Gloria Gaynor), “Stronger” (Britney Spears), “Since U Been Gone” (Kelly Clarkson)

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