The Best Tracks of 2018, #8

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8. Ariana Grande, “thank u, next”

Man, pop music in 2018 was weird. Make no mistake, artists selfishly using their status to gain the upper hand in the court of public opinion is as old as songwriting itself (sorry, as brilliant as “Idiot Wind” is, Dylan pulled the jerk moves to end all jerk moves when he wrote it) but Ariana Grande took the gimmick to absurd new levels with the surprise single “thank u, next”. There are different ways to see it. The easy thing to do is to say, “Way to go, Ariana, for continuing to be the Strong Woman taking the high road like you’ve done for the past year or so.” The more unpopular perspective is to see the song as a crass, highly calculated PR move in the wake of the death of one of her exes and her high-profile split with another, all within weeks. It’s hardly a surprise that the track turned out to be Ms. Grande’s biggest hit yet, and sincere or trite, it’s an ingenious stunt to propel an already established pop star into the stratosphere, not to mention a wickedly clever pop tune. On that basis alone, I greatly admire the track, in spite of how shattered the living people she’s mentioning in the song must feel. But no one wants to talk about that. They’re too busy ogling the tiny young woman with the ponytail. Because of course they are.