The early-2000s nostalgia of the "thank u, next" video is an easy win for Grande. Her selections are the titles that have fueled internet listicles for some time now. They have been broken apart into GIFs, and are almost constantly playing on one basic cable channel or another. (Grande would have been only 7 when Bring It On came out in 2000, surely making a chunk of her audience feel ancient.)
Grande is not the first artist to make a music video out of essentially playing dress up. Iggy Azalea and Charli XCX did Clueless in "Fancy;" Charli, along with Troye Sivan, tackled The Matrix and Titanic in their new video for "1999." Grande one-ups these on scale, naturally, but she's also tapping into something a little more savvy than her predecessors.
Mean Girls, Bring It On, Legally Blonde, and 13 Going on 30 are all comfort movies. They are the kind you watch when you want to want to be lulled into a state of quotable warmth, the kind that you might put on at a sleepover, the kind you might put on after an event like, say, a breakup. At least two of them -- Legally Blonde and Bring It On -- are about women triumphing after an attachment to a shitty guy. They are perfect for the moment you might want to quote Kirsten Dunst's Torrance Shipman: "You're a great cheerleader, Aaron, and you're cute as hell, but maybe you're just not boyfriend material." In these comedies, doomed relationships are an opportunity for growth -- and better relationships down the line, just like they are in "thank u, next."
What Grande is doing -- as she has done with her conversational Twitter account -- is inviting her fans into sisterhood where everyone knows what it means to be "flirty, and thirty, and thriving" and where the "limit does not exist." Just like a good rom-com, it's impossible to resist.