Ariana Grande’s 5th album, thank u, next, was released in 2019. In this album, fans could tell that the music was very personal and listening to it was like having a connection with Ariana’s soul. In one of her most melancholy tracks, “ghostin”, she writes about her turmoil after losing her ex-boyfriend Mac Miller to overdose while also trying to maintain a healthy relationship with her fiancé at the time Pete Davidson.
I know you hear me when I cry
I try to hold it in the night
While you're sleepin' next to me
But it's your arms that I need this time
In the opening verse, Ariana describes how she cries at night over the loss of her former partner. However, she puts a twist on it by speaking to Pete instead of her audience. Understanding who this song is intended for puts a deeper layer of meaning into it. We find out in an interview that Ariana almost didn’t put the track on the album, as she didn’t feel quite ready to let the world hear how vulnerable she is in this track.
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
In this verse, Ariana is admitting how difficult it is for her to be emotional with her fiancé because it hurts him to think about her missing another man. While there is a lot of nuance to this situation, one cannot help their feelings but it takes a lot of strength and courage to admit them. While the audience is still Pete throughout the song, she tries to make him understand what exactly she’s going through and make him see the situation from her perspective.
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 after all that we been through
There's so much to look forward to
What was done and what was said
Leave it all here in this bed with you
The line “He just comes to visit me/ When I’m dreaming every now and then” is actually a reference to Mac Miller’s song “Cinderella” in which he sings “You in my dreams that’s why I sleep all the time”. This sheds light that there is still love between Ariana and Mac, and while the relationship didn’t work out it didn’t deserve to end the way it did. She admits this to Pete, while also admitting that she doesn’t want him feeling like he is lesser.
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
The reference to baggage in the scene helps us understand what it is like to date Ariana Grande. In addition to losing her ex-boyfriend, the Manchester terrorist attack at one of her shows left her pretty rattled. She also was thrust into the spotlight at the young age of 12 and had family issues with her parents divorcing. The imagery of baggage being lugged behind her into any relationship she goes into is really poetic and helps dive deeper into the experience of being with her.
Look at the cards that we've been dealt
If you were anybody else
Probably wouldn't last a day
Every tear's a rain parade from hell
Another imagery from the song is “Every tear’s a rain parade from hell”. This is a reference to a song from her previous album (Sweetener) titled “no tears left to cry” where she shares the fact that she cried so much in this period of her her life that “there ain’t no tears left to cry”. So, naturally, when you’ve passed the point of crying so much you have no tears left, crying over yet another tragedy in your life is fair game to compare to hell.
The overall meaning of the song is her telling Pete that she still loves Mac and misses him dearly, but she is determined to make their relationship together work. She understands that there are complex feelings, and feelings even about those feelings but she believes they will get through it. While their relationship didn’t work out in the end, it was an important step in her life to heal from all the trauma she experienced while also learning to be open in love and the people you are with.
I love Ariana Grande and I am so proud of all that she has been through. The growth she went through can be heard in her music and it is fascinating, as well as heart wrenching, to go back and listen to it.