Who Is Ariana Grande Referencing in Her 'Thank U, Next' Album Lyrics?

Ariana Grande fans are finding lots of references to Mac Miller and Pete Davidson in the songs on her new album — ghostin', imagine, bloodline — and are sharing their thoughts online.

Mustafa Gatollari - Author

Apr. 16 2020, Updated 4:55 p.m. ET

grande miller cover
Source: instagram

Ariana Grande's thank u, next album just dropped last night and fans are already hard at work attempting to decipher just who she's talking about in specific tracks. Naturally, people are pointing to two of her exes — Pete Davidson and Mac Miller.

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When she dropped the self-titled single a while back, she wasn't exactly being discreet about the fact that she was referencing past exes. The "thank u, next" music video was pretty much all about that action: shots of her creating and flipping through a scrapbook detailing her romantic past was one of the most talked about parts of the video, with obvious references to the young SNL star. 

Naturally, people are listening to the lyrics of the songs on her album and are frantically searching for references and theories online in an attempt to discover just who or what she's referring to in her tracks.

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Track No. 1: "imagine"

This reference isn't exactly a subtle one: Mac had a tattoo of the word on his body:

"Imagine a world like that / We could light up 'til I'm 'sleep on your chest / Love how my face fits so good in your neck / Boy, can you imagine a world like that?"

Then there's this "pad thai" reference:

"Staying up all night, order me pad thai / Then we gon' sleep 'til noon"

It could be a head nod to a lyric in Mac's track, "Cinderella," which Ariana confirmed was all about her: "And when you hungry I can chef you up a stir fry."

The tattoo pretty much sums that up for me, though.

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imagine mac miller
Source: twitter

Track No. 2: "needy"

This song has a couple of Pete Davidson references in it, and many believe the song is a reaction to Ariana attempting to overcome the "rollercoaster" of emotions she felt before dating the comic. After dealing with her breakup with Mac and the aftermath of the Manchester stadium bombing, her and Pete gave each other comfort with their rapid-blooming love affair:

"Lately, I've been on a roller coaster / Tryna get a hold of my emotions / But all that I know is I need you close"

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Track No. 3: "NASA"

When Pete and Ariana attended the VMAs together, he was seen rocking a NASA sweatshirt. The outer space metaphors and reference to his clothing make a pretty good case that this track is about Ariana deciding it was time to call it quits with Pete:

"Baby, you know time apart is beneficial / It’s like I'm the universe and you'll be N-A-S-A"

Also, the fact that Ariana said she needed time to "work on herself" after breaking it off with Pete is a good indication that this line is about her relationship with him:

"You don't wanna leave me, but I'm tryna self-discover / Keep me in your orbit and you know you'll drag me under..."

mac miller
Source: instagram
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Track No. 4: "bloodline"

In this one, many think that the person who "sailed away" from her life, the "one true love" was indeed, Mac Miller.

"I ain't lookin' for my one true love / Yeah, that ship sailed away"

Even after their break-up, Ariana remained positive that the two of them would maintain some kind of relationship before he passed away. In her song, "In My Head" she mentions how Mac was "the one," too.

Track No. 8: "ghostin'"

Many believe that she's referring to both Pete Davidson and Mac Miller in the track. This specific verse might refer to the time that Ariana spent living with Pete. She started dating the comedian shortly after breaking up with ex Mac Miller, who battled drug and alcohol addiction. 

Verse 1:

"I know you hear me when I cry

I try to hold it in at night

While you're sleepin' next to me

 But it's your arms that I need this time (This time)

Look at the cards that we've been dealt"

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ariana grande tweet
Source: twitter

The "cards that we've been dealt" line could be a reference to Pete and Ariana "saving" one another from past traumas: Pete lost his father on September 11th, Ariana, dealing with the news of ex Mac's death. 

"Baby, you do it so well

You been so understanding, you been so good

And I'm puttin' you through more than one ever should

And I'm hating myself 'cause you don't want to

Admit that it hurts you"

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Many believe that Ariana is apologizing to Pete for being so broken up over Mac's death and still having feelings for him, even after he's passed away. She's expressing the guilt she felt for still being in love with another man and crying over him, even while sharing a bed with Pete. The "him" in the chorus is also allegedly referring to Mac:


"I know that it breaks your heart when I cry again

Over him, mmh

I know that it breaks your heart when I cry again

'Stead of ghostin' him

We'll get through this, we'll get past this, I'm a girl with

A whole lot of baggage

But I love you, we'll get past this, I'm a girl with

A whole lot of baggage, yeah"

ariana grande tweet IG
Source: instagram
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She even "confesses" that she wishes Mac was still with her, presumably instead of Pete, and feels guilty for putting the young actor through that:

 Verse 2

"Though I wish he were here instead

Don't want that living in your head

He just comes to visit me

When I'm dreaming every now and then (And then)"

Then there's the fact that she samples a track of Miller's in the song, so all of these facts combined pretty much confirms it's a tribute.

Track No. 9: "in my head"

Ariana's known to constantly refer to Mac as an "Angel" and referenced the "demons" he fought in his life:

"My imagination's too creative / They see demon, I see angel, angel, angel / Without a halo, wingless angel"

She also references the fact that she couldn't imagine losing him at such a young age, and also the self-care she needed to consider when she exited the relationship after Mac couldn't stay sober:

"Falling, falling, but I never thought you'd leave me / Falling, falling, needed something to believe in, oh

 Your Gucci tennis shoes runnin' from your issues / Cardio good for the heart (For the heart, for the heart) / I figure we can work it out, hmm."

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grande shut down miller blame
Source: twitter

What really seals the deal is this line about wanting to see Mac break out of his bad habits:

"Wanted you to grow, but, boy, you wasn’t budding / Everything you are made you everything you aren't"

So, so rough.

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Track No. 11: "thank u, next"

This song is pretty well documented. She directly references Mac Miller in it:

"Wish I could say thank you to Malcolm / 'Cause he was an angel"

And she goes on to thank the other men in her life she was able to grow and learn from:

"One taught me love / One taught me patience / One taught me pain / Now, I'm so amazing / I've loved and I've lost / But that's not what I see / So, look what I've got / Look what you taught me..."

You've got Mac, Pete Davidson, Big Sean, and Ricky Alvarez in the mix there too.

ariana grande tweet
Source: twitter

It's worth mentioning that the album just dropped and there's still probably going to be a ton more references and hints that fans find in the next few weeks.

Did you get a chance to listen to it yet? If so, what'd you think?

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