Ariana Grande’s Thank U, Next music video is full of references to the pulpiest of girl-movie pop culture, with appearances by original cast members, social media influencers, and friends who help Grande take jabs at her personal life, including past relationships. But, the best thing about this video is that it’s based on an anthem to herself.
Ain’t nothing wrong with a little bit of self-indulgence and a whole lot of fun.
Grande incorporates the best, seemingly her personal favourites, and most colourful, teen romantic comedies from the 90s and early 2000s into Thank U, Next. Four films made the cut: Mean Girls, Legally Blonde, 13 Going on 30, and Bring It On.
The video gives a shout-out to a list of publications, among them the Insider, a fact the magazine is quick to point out in another heavily trending video on YouTube, All The Easter Eggs and References in Ariana Grande’s ‘Thank U, Next’ Music Video Explained. There’s no doubt that this is cross-promotional advertising but they hardly miss a beat. They put in the research and show footage from the movies intertwined with the music video to bring us lots of comedic moments.
Speculations about Ariana’s real life
“One time on Twitter, I heard that Ariana was pregnant, so I got pregnant so we could be pregnant at the same time. Turns out it was just a rumour,” … and other quotes
The highlight reel of movies begins with a Mean Girls tribute in a pre-release teaser made available earlier this week on social media. It mimics the movie with a confessional introduction where admirers talk about their experiences with Ariana instead of original queen bee Regina George, played by Rachel McAdams in the movie.
Gossip about Regina is replaced by speculations about Ariana’s real life. She addresses rumours about her being pregnant last summer.
In the video, a girl leans on her locker in the school hallway and says, “One time on Twitter, I heard that Ariana was pregnant, so I got pregnant so we could be pregnant at the same time. Turns out it was just a rumour,” she adds, as she looks down at her protruding baby bump.
Turns out, the person who played that role is Coleen Ballinger (Miranda Sings), Grande’s long-time friend, author and YouTube personality, who is actually eight months pregnant.
Jonathan Bennett who plays Aaron Samuels in the movie, plays the same character in the video in the scene where Regina tries to make Cady Heron (Lindsay Lohan) jealous by running her fingers through Aaron’s hair.
In the movie, the line is, “Your hair looks sexy pushed back. Cady, will you tell him his hair looks sexy pushed back.”
In the video, Bennett says: “Ariana Grande told me my hair looks sexy pushed back. She’s not wrong.”
“I heard she’s a lesbian now and she’s dating a chick called Aubrey,” …Troy Sivan, in ‘Thank U, Next’
Grande jokes about her short-lived engagement with Pete Davidson, in a scene delivered by actor Stefanie Drummond who played Bethany Byrd in the movie. You may remember her as the girl in the gym who also delivered the line about having a wide-set vagina and a heavy flow.
As Byrd, Drummond says, “Ariana broke off an engagement, so I found a guy to propose to me and I broke off an engagement.”
Aussie musician Troy Sivan’s line refers to the misheard lyrics from the song Thank U, Next.
“I heard she’s a lesbian now and she’s dating a chick called Aubrey,” says Sivan.
People thought Grande was saying Aubrey when she was actually referring to herself in a shortened version of her first name, Ari.
Apple Music had the lyrics wrong also, which made things more complicated as everyone thought Grande was coming out. She was really professing self-love.
“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 Aubrey Ari
And I’m so good with that”
Grande’s friend and back-up dancer Scott Nicholson, IG: @brilovelife, who is dressed in drag in the video, says, “I heard if you record her snoring and play it backwards, it sounds like Fantasia.”
There’s no decision on whether Grande is referring to singer Fantasia Burino, who performed at R & B queen Aretha Franklin’s funeral, as Grande did last summer, or the Disney movie Fantasia.
Grande’s look-alike, YouTuber Gabi Di Martino, @gabcake (Twitter) delivered a Bethany Byrd inspired line:
“Ariana says, honest to God, knock me out. So, I decided to punch myself in the face. It was awesome.”
Di Martino then did a parody of Grande in her Fancy Vlogs By Gab series on YouTube, which went viral.
The Mean Girls Burn Book
The song starts with Ariana playing Regina, resembling a brown-skin, queen bee Barbie doll, much like the head of the Plastics, Regina’s entourage. She is lying on her bed, glueing a photo onto a page in her Burn Book.
The Burn Book from the movie is full of mean-girl cut-ups. In Thank U, Next, it becomes a scrapbook full of sweet memories, hand-drawn hearts and notes written in red marker. Memories of rapper Big Sean, her ex-boyfriend, backup dancer Ricky Alvarez, and Nicholson, her most recent break-up appear in the book. A photo of her and rapper Mac Miller, who passed away in September, is beside her bed.
Grande surrounds herself with long-time friends and former co-stars, some of them her best friends, and cast mates from the Nickelodeon show Victorious. Alexa Luria and Courtney Chipolone were cast as Karen Smith and Gretchen Wieners, originally played by Amanda Syfried and Lacey Chabert. Another friend in real life, Elizabeth Gillies plays Cady, Lohan’s character.
Grande plays the lead characters played by Rachel McAdams in Mean Girls, Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde, Jennifer Garner in 13 Going on 30, and Kirsten Dunst in Bring It On.
As you can imagine, there are a lot of costume changes and props, from the pink attire worn by the Plastics to the naughty Santa suits worn for the performance at the annual talent show, the cheerleading uniforms from Get it On, to Elle Woods’ pink Corvette.
Jennifer Coolidge reprises her role as Paulette Bonafonté. Her crush-turned-husband, the UPS Guy, shows up at the nail salon where they do a Nicholson brothers choreographed version of the Bend and Snap called the “thank you, next.”
“We tried to put our own twist on it so legal wouldn’t come for us,” tweets Grande.
As Bring It On’s Torrance Shipman (Kirsten Dunst), Grande faces off with the other team’s head cheerleader. Her real life best friend Victoria Monét plays squad captain Isis (Gabrielle Union). Monét co-writes many of Grande’s songs, and another close friend, musician Taylor Parks (sometimes Tayla Parx), who co-wrote Thank U, Next is on the rival team.
Thank U, Next features cameos from Kris Jenner playing the cool mom from Mean Girls. Robbie Shapiro, Daniella Monet, Grande’s dog Toulouse, Jennifer Coolidge, and a photo of Grande’s brother skating appear in the video.
She surrounds herself with people close to her, her supporters and admirers and those she cares about, the kind of relationships that can get you through break-ups, life changes and traumatic events.
(I wrote this just days after the video was released. Let me know which moments in the video were crucial for you in the Discussion section below. )