Thank U, Next
By Wells Wallace
Ariana Grande’s “Thank U, Next” music video was *a smash.* Its first day it broke the record for most Vevo views (55.4M) in 24 hours beating out Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do”, and 3 days later it broke another record for the fastest time to reach 100 million views, besting Adele’s “Hello.” Not to mention both “Look What You Made Me Do” and “Hello” were singles that premiered alongside the video, whereas “Thank U, Next” was released and debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 weeks before the video premiered. It even led to a surge in Amazon Prime streams of the movies (Mean Girls, Bring It On, Legally Blonde, 13 Going On 30) that the music video paid homage to. What contributed to its success?
The platform itself made an impact. The video appeared on YouTube Premiere, a new feature that lets artists livestream their video premiere-- “complete with a one-hour countdown clock to the actual premiere time and a chatbox to the right of the video widget.” In this way the video release is treated like an event and reintroduces the concept of experiencing music videos as a community. YouTube’s Global Head of Music likens YouTube Premiere to MTV’s TRL (Total Request Live) saying “It’s a shared experience, as opposed to the isolated, video-on-demand experience.”
And speaking of 00’s nostalgia, it’s impossible to talk about the success of this music video without speaking to its nostalgia play. But while nostalgia is always a powerful sensation, today’s cultural context makes it particularly effective.
Anxiety around social, technological, and political issues peaked and the conversations taking place across media--not just news but pop culture--were challenging and heated. There was little room or tolerance for lighthearted. So when the Thank U, Next video dropped, paying homage to female-lead, cult-favorite 00’s films, it was a slam dunk--[comfortably] familiar, female, and fun.