Ariana Grande spent over an hour chatting with Zach Sang about her Thank U, Next album in a new interview uploaded to YouTube Saturday (Feb. 9). Surrounded by her friends that helped her make the record, the conversation with Grande covered a lot of ground: the emotional impact of this album, the version of “Thank U, Next” (the song) that hasn’t been heard and her exes’ reactions to hearing their names on the track that was released — and how she wishes everyone she meets would just, you know, come on over and join her for dinner.
“I made it with my best friends over the course of a really small period of time, and it kind of saved my life,” Grande said of the Thank U, Next album, which dropped on Feb. 8. “It was kind of this super challenging chapter that sucked, and then my friends made it amazing and special.”
“It turned everything around in my life. It sounds really corny, but it was the most beautiful,” she said before admitting, “I don’t think life has ever been as bad as it was when [we started].”
“Thank U, Next” the single came before the full-length album, of course — it was released back in November — but the version of it that became the hit we all know is not the only one that exists. “We had like three different versions of the song,” Grande explained, including at least one take that doesn’t name any names.
In that variant of the song that still lives on someone’s hard drive somewhere, “I think I said, ‘They say I’m too young.’ ‘I’ve got so many boyfriends,'” she said. “I was just talking about what people say about me, still. It still was like, OK, I’m embracing my mistakes and what I’ve done and everything that’s contributing to who I am but it was just less direct. Everyone kind of — including me — was kind of like, ‘This is not the version’ [to release]. But I was also trying to be protective.”
She continued: “In my relationship, by that time, things were like up and down and on and off, so I didn’t know what was gonna happen. And then, you know, we got back together so I had to make a different version of it, and then we broke up again we ended up going with that version. 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.”
Opening up further — and even beginning to tear up a bit — Grande said, “It was a big risk and a very scary thing to do because it is my life. I understand to a lot of people I’m not a real person. It’s easy to kind of see me as a song or a picture or a thing that kind of exists in their head, and they know what they know and that’s it. But at the end of the day, these are people and relationships. It’s real shit to me.”
Although “Thank U, Next” went on to become a No. 1 single, Grande was initially nervous to play the song for people at all.
“I knew as soon as people heard the names, they were gonna be like, ‘Run that back one more time. What the f— is she doing?'” she said. “My mom was like, she’s never been happier. My mom was like, ‘Oh, this is just the best song I’ve ever heard.’ Anybody who knows me knows how Joan Grande has felt about every relationship I’ve ever been in. She’s been so supportive and patient and bit her tongue and been a fantastic mother … That song is for my mom’s closure and also like a thank you to her for helping me through a lot of this shit.”
While the No. 1 fan of “Thank U, Next” might just be Grande’s mom, one might wonder what her exes think of the song.
“I had sent it to Sean and he loved it. He was like, ‘Damn, I’m the first one, huh?’ I was like, ‘You know, I went kind of in order,'” she recounted. “Ricky loved it. He was like proud. But Ricky was like, ‘Why’d I get the worst line?’ I was like, ‘What do you mean?’ He was like, ‘Everyone else’s line is so nice, and mine is like, f— him, he’s trash.’ I was like, ‘Nah, I could’ve said that. But I didn’t.”
“Everyone that I am still in touch with has been very supportive of it,” she offered.
In a change of topic, Grande also spoke candidly about being in the public eye.
“It’s really wild,” she told the show’s host. “Sometimes it takes a really crazy toll on me and I’ll be really sad for a couple days in a row when I read something that makes me feel awful because I am such an extreme purist when it comes to people. I want everyone to be my friend. I desperately love and want to hug everyone I encounter. Literally I’m like, ‘Wow, I wish everyone would come over for dinner right now and never leave.’ I’ve had that since I was a little girl.”
“I probably wouldn’t like me if I only knew what the world knows of me, or reads of me, because half of it is bullshit and half of it is true is like videos of me touching my hair and being polished pop star girl, and I’m like, ‘Ew. F— you.’ I see my shit that I make and I’m like, that’s crazy,” she joked.
Watch the full interview — which also touches upon the role champagne played in the making of the album, the highs and lows of interacting with people on social media and Grande’s longtime love of Wicked — below.