By now, most fans of Ariana Grande have probably heard — or at least heard about — the pop star’s new banger, “Thank U, Next.” Since the track’s unexpected release late Saturday night, Nov. 3, the internet’s been reeling with questions. Like, who are all the people Ariana Grande mentioned in “Thank U, Next”? The song’s fiery opening verse references a handful names that many of Grande’s fans (especially those who’ve been around since the earlier days of the singer’s career) will probably recognize. Nodding to former romances with Big Sean, Ricky Alvarez, Mac Miller, and — most recently — Pete Davidson, Grande’s “Thank U, Next” offers listeners a glimpse into what she’s learned in those relationships’ aftermath.
That feels more than appropriate, since, as several outlets have reported, Grande’s “Thank U, Next” is all about moving forward. Of course, as is usually customary when it comes to personal growth of almost any kind, moving forward often means coming to terms with those chapters you’ve chosen to leave behind. In Grande’s case, the personal enlightenment she’s found for herself in “Thank U, Next” seems to come on the heels of some serious critical thinking about each and every one of her major past romances.
“Thought I’d end up with Sean/but he wasn’t a match,” croons Grande at the song’s start, pretty obviously referencing her relationship with Big Sean, the rapper with whom she shared two exceedingly sweet (not to mention exceedingly couple-y) duets: “Best Mistake” and “Right There.” The pair took their romance public during the Grammy Awards back in 2015, but had conceivably been an item for something like six months before that. According to a report from E! News at the time, Grande and Big Sean split up in April of that same year, after having reportedly dated for almost nine months.
Moving right along, the song’s first verse promptly segues into an empowered string of takeaways from each notable relationship that followed, from Alvarez all the way up to Davidson:
Not long after her split from Big Sean, rumors kicked up claiming that Grande and Alvarez, originally one of her backup dancers, had started dating. In August of 2015, another report from E! News seemed to confirm the relationship rumors, and the two seemed pretty happy for about a year after that. But, by the time July 2016 rolled around, Grande and Alvarez had broken up, too.
Then, about a month later, Grande and Miller unveiled their relationship to the public at 2016’s MTV Video Music Awards. (Just so everyone’s on the same page about Grande’s lyrical references, Miller’s birth name was Malcolm McCormick.) The pair had been subject to some romance rumors in the past, mostly due to their 2013 musical collab, “The Way.” And while they’d apparently been seen smooching a few weeks prior to that year’s VMAs, the couple made it official during the award show. Grande and Miller were together for about two years after that, until their very public breakup this past May.
Just weeks after Grande reportedly confirmed her and Miller’s breakup via Instagram Stories, rumors that she and Davidson had started dating first began to circulate. On May 30, Davidson, a Saturday Night Live comedian, seemed to “confirm” the relationship with a since-deleted Instagram photo of himself and Grande wearing Harry Potter costumes, alongside the caption, “the chamber of secrets has been opened.” By the end of June, Grande and Davidson were engaged.
But just a few months later, in October, Grande and Davidson broke up, following what had been a taxing couple of months for the singer. After Miller’s untimely death in early September, Grande took a step back from the spotlight, skipping out on this year’s Emmy Award show and periodically stepping away from social media, too. Grande has yet to comment on the Davidson breakup reports directly. That said, her final name-drop in “Thank U, Next” suggests she’s not dwelling on past romances anymore. Why? It sounds like she’s in a different kind of relationship now:
So, all in all, it seems pretty safe to say that Grande isn’t holding onto any bitterness regarding the end of past romances. In fact, her genuine “thank you’s” to each ex throughout the new song make it pretty clear that she’s grateful for the time she shared with them, and what those experiences taught her. And, in moving on from those experiences, it seems the “next” relationship on Grande’s horizon is with herself. Romance aside, most folks who’ve been in any sort of relationship before know that’s definitely the most important one to maintain, anyway.