VOTD: Thank u, next
So recently Ariana’s video for thank u, next came out and it’s been blowing up my social media feeds…for good reason. The video is awesome.
I’m not an Ariana fan and I don’t even necessarily care for the song sonically, though the concept I do like a lot, but there’s something really special and nostalgic about the video. Take a look below if you haven’t already seen it yet.
Ariana Grande and her go-to video director, Hannah Lux Davis, were sitting in the pop star’s living room this fall, discussing ideas for her “breathin” clip, when “thank u, next” took over the conversation—as it often does. Grande just had to play Davis the then-unreleased track, which surprised the director with its honesty and script-flipping on a breakup narrative. The two started brainstorming right away. “When Ariana gets excited about something, she wants to do it right then and there,” Davis tells Pitchfork. “She’s like, ‘Let’s shoot this yesterday.’”
At first Grande and Davis envisioned the “thank u, next” video, which dropped on Friday and quickly broke YouTube records, as a Mean Girls Burn Book come to life. As they kept discussing their favorite early-2000s rom-coms, they realized it couldn’t just be an homage to Mean Girls. It needed to have the energy of Bring It On, the wistfulness of 13 Going on 30, the, ahem, bend and snap of Legally Blonde. Grande wouldn’t just embody Regina George—she would take on Elle Woods, Torrance Shipman, and Jenna Rink. The singer’s real-life friends needed to be there too, and a bunch of cheeky cameos from celebrities and actors from the original movies.
It sounds chaotic, but put together, the mega-montage really works—and certainly captures the up-and-down year Grande’s faced. “All of these movies have this common theme of a breakup leading the characters to be better versions of themselves,” says Davis. “That became the core of it all.”
“That scene was obviously a very iconic one. Ariana wanted to make a moment out of it, so when it came time to find who was going to play Mrs. George—if it’s not going to be Amy Poehler and it’s not going to be Joan Grande—then who else is the most iconic, legendary cool mom? That would be Kris Jenner. [Ariana] is friends with her so she reached out and Kris jumped at the chance. She got really into character right away, she knew it was a fun role and was down to get goofy with us.
It was such a trip watching the Santa dance because [Ariana’s] friends are not dancers. When you’re watching the scene you’re watching Ariana, because it’s an Ariana Grande video, but watch the other girls. Nobody is in sync with each other, which feels similar to how the movie felt. Ariana was like, ‘You know what, after everything I’ve been through like this past year, it’s these girls who have been by my side—I want my fans to see that.’
Aaron Samuels from Mean Girls—[played by actor] Jonathan Bennett—was in the auditorium that day when we shot the dance scene. We were like, ‘This is so insane.’”
“The toothbrush scene is just fun. We built that bathroom set so that the camera is essentially their mirror. Ariana and Matt [Bennett, who worked on ‘Victorious’ with Grande] brushed their teeth for so long that their gums were bleeding, it was insane. They’ve known each other forever and it shows—when Ariana loves somebody, it does really show. The two of them have real chemistry on camera.
That scene in the film is a great moment of two people connecting. [In the video] it’s also kind of a twist: In the lyrics she’s talking about ‘people say I move on too fast,’ and then she throws us a curveball by saying ‘and her name is Ari.’ That’s when we cut to her holding the mixtape [from another Bring It On scene] and being like, ‘No, no, no, it wasn’t this guy, it was me—to me, from me, I got this.’”
“It’s not a huge moment in the movie—the whole thing is maybe like 20 seconds in a montage. But that scene was really important to me. I remember watching it as a teenager and being like, ‘Woah, she’s working out, studying, and watching the news? Multitasking at its finest.’ I didn’t realize it until I watched the movie later on, but that scene captured a lot. Now female empowerment is everywhere, but my generation—I’m 32—didn’t have all of this self love and personal development talk. I feel like it was almost subliminally placed in the movie, so it was cool to bring out in this.”
“The scene was originally supposed to be placed in the beginning of the video—we were going to open the whole video on the back of a bride and her bridesmaids. The day before we shot, I cut together scenes from the original films to see how the pacing would look. [The 13 Going on 30 scene] just wasn’t feeling natural there, but then you get to that third verse when Ariana talks about the wedding and walking down the aisle with her mom. It had a more organic structure that way.
In the dollhouse she’s holding are all the different sets we shot in. We made the Bring It On bedroom and the Legally Blonde dorm room. Ariana was most excited to play Jennifer Garner’s character [Jenna Rink] because she really took that character to heart. Also, she was really into that wig.”
My favorite part is definitely the Kris Jenner cameo. It fits her persona perfectly, and goes with the Mean Girls bit, too. “Thank you, next, bitch!”