Most women have a designated “heartbreak song” they listen to during a breakup. As a rule of thumb, it generally needs to have relatable lyrics, as both the melody and the words need to make them feel as if they aren’t alone in what they’re going through.
And in that vein, few artists have mastered the art of relatability like Ariana Grande, whose most recent album, “thank u, next,” sold 116,000 copies in its first week and is sitting at No. 1 on the Top Album Sales and Billboard 200 Charts. Indeed, a large part of Grande’s success stems from her songs’ ability to speak to people everywhere.
However, of all the bangers on the album, one track in particular has become something of a breakup anthem on social media. When she wrote “In My Head,” where Grande discusses creating her own version of Mac Miller, the pop star unwittingly tapped into the psyches of millions of lovelorn women who owe much of their post-romantic anguish to their own panglossian tendencies.
The song begins with a voice speaking to listeners. “Here’s the thing,” it says, “you’re in love with a version of a person that you’ve created in your head, that you are trying to but cannot fix. Uh, the only person you can fix is yourself. I love you, this has gone on way too long. Enough is enough.”
Whereas most people cannot be fully honest with their friends in fear of hurting their feelings, the song’s narrator has no such inhibitions; instead, she is brutally honest. The speaker wants to save you from the pain she experienced after holding onto a constructed image they know is a just hopeless dream.
The opening of the song alone is extremely powerful. For anyone, such as myself, who has done the exact same thing the speaker warns against, the message is sobering. I painted a picture of my ex in my head to convince myself that things would work out, so these intro lyrics really resonated with me. You can’t fix anyone, all you can do is fix your heart and move on.
“They see demon, I see angel”
Here Grande is naming the phenomenon metaphorically; where all of your friends can see how poorly he treated you, you have constructed a false vision of him in your mind.
As a result, no matter how lopsided your relationship becomes, you will always find a way to excuse his behavior, which works out well for him and does nothing to encourage change in his toxic behavior.
“Falling, falling, needed something to believe in / oh, I thought you were the one but it was all in my head”
In this line, Grande is vocalizing a realization: she has been holding out hope for a situation that’s impossible.
Love is a powerful agent that can blind you and block out the horrors of reality. Because it can almost act like a narcotic in this way, love makes it easy for you to let things slide, ignore the signs.
Still, even the most delusional in love eventually realize the situation they have allowed to fester. At that point, you each erect walls and then fighting starts. Even during these spats, though, in the back of your head, you’re running B-roll of all the great memories you made together, always wishing your relationship could heal even though you now have to remind yourself that it can’t.
It takes a strong person to accept that the person they thought they were in love with is just someone they created in their head. In “In My Head,” Grande implores women to learn from her mistakes and realize that they do not have to tolerate what they once chose to ignore.
“Painted a picture, I thought I drew you well / I had a vision, seeing what isn’t there”
Here, Grande reiterates that the version she saw, the one she created, fails to reflects reality. In lingering on this point, she is underscoring the difficulty of this process; admitting your love was rooted in a mirage requires admitting not just that you were mistaken, but that you invested sizable time and effort into a project that was doomed from the start.
The world is full of billions of people. Instead of trying to force someone to change, why not use your energy elsewhere, and find someone you don’t have to change anything about to love them? Search for someone who gives you everything you need without having to ask.
Unfortunately, in direct opposition to your efforts, some people will deliberately hide who they really are, which can confound even your most concerted efforts to judge their character accurately. When dealing with these romantic chameleons, you have to be forgiving to yourself. After realizing your partner has been presenting you with a facade, the only right step is a step backward.
In the end, Grande sings, you can never change your partner; only they can change themselves. You can, instead, create a better version of yourself, learn from your mistake and use it to make smarter choices in the future.
In that way, Grande is a voice for female empowerment, as her lyrics speak volumes to women across the globe.