Ariana Grande's 'Thank U, Next' Video Totally Nails Its Remakes of Iconic Comfort Movies
At the beginning of this month, Ariana Grande released her latest single "thank u, next" and immediately set off a wave of praise and memes. With its mantra -- "I'm so fuckin' grateful for my ex" -- it was a breakup jam that, without revealing all that much, felt refreshingly frank and therapeutic. Not too long after the track arrived, Grande began teasing the video with Instagram nods to four now-iconic movies from the early aughts: Mean Girls, Bring It On, Legally Blonde, and 13 Going on 30. By the time the video dropped today, which live-premiered on YouTube to nearly 770,000 viewers, its contents weren't much of a surprise, which didn't make it any less adorable.
Grande packs in cameos. Some were previously revealed, like Legally Blonde's Jennifer Coolidge reprising her role as manicurist Paulette. Others were kept secret until the release, like Kris Jenner taking over for Amy Poehler's "Cool Mom" in one of the Mean Girls sections. Meanwhile, there are not-quite hidden references to Grande's actual ex-boyfriends, including multiple jokes that continue to imply that Saturday Night Live's Pete Davidson is, uh, very well endowed. (See: Big Dick Energy.)
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.