“Thank U, Next” accelerated the rise of Ariana Grande’s already ascendant career. It was her first Number One on the Billboard Hot 100, served as the launching point for one of Grande’s most successful projects and proved that a pop star looking to hip-hop for inspiration in the streaming age could pay immense dividends. During an interview on the Zach Sang Show, Grande described how nerves about including the names of her exes on “Thank U, Next” inspired her to experiment with different lyrics.
“We had like three different versions of the song,” Grande said. “I’m like super shy when it comes to pitching wild things, so I was like, ‘Is it insane if I name people and thank them directly in the song?'”
Tommy Brown, a “Thank U, Next” producer and frequent Grande collaborator, explained in the interview that all of the people in the studio knew the original version was the version they should use, but Grande needed to try different approaches. Ariana is careful not to mention Pete Davidson’s name, but alludes to a potential marriage that affected the song.
“In my relationship at the time, things were like up and down and on and off, and so I didn’t know what was going to happen and then we got back together. So I had to make a different version of it, and then we broke up again, so we ended up going with that verse. There’s a version where I was getting married, there’s a version where I’m not getting married, there’s a version with nothing. We’re not talking about anything, but we all knew that the first version was gonna be the version we ultimately went with.”
“I spent a lot of time with each of those people, learning and [bleeped expletive],” Ariana said as she began to tear up. “It was scary to put in a song.”