If Ariana Grande name-dropping her exes on “thank u, next” completely stunned and stupefied you, rest assured the singer knew exactly what she was doing.
“I was very nervous to share it because I knew that as soon as people heard the names they were going to be like, ‘run that back one more time, what the fuck is she doing?'” Grande admitted in an exhaustive new interview with the Zach Sang Show, which covers everything thank u, next.
Making the song was so “scary,” in fact, that Grande ended up recording three iterations of the eventual No. 1 smash, in case the original was too “insane.” On one of those versions, the first verse had no names at all and instead addressed media speculation of Grande’s relationships, with lyrics like, “Say I’m too young” and “I’ve had too many boyfriends.”
“It still was like, OK, I’m embracing my mistakes and what I’ve done… but it was just less direct,” she said. “And everyone, including me, was kind of like, ‘this is not the version.’ But I was also trying to be protective, you know?”
Not only that, but at the time, Grande wasn’t sure if she and former fiancé Pete Davidson were going to get back together, so she recorded alternate lyrics just to be safe. She explained, “In my relationship at the time, things were up and down and on and off, and so I didn’t know what was gonna happen. And then we got back together, so I had to make a different version of it, and then we broke up again, so we ended up going with that version.”
She held back tears while continuing, “I just wanted to cover all the bases. It was a big risk and a very scary thing to do because it is my life. … And I spent a lot of time with each of those people — like, learning and shit — so it was scary to put into song.”
Even so, Grande said her exes Big Sean and Ricky Alvarez were super into the song: “Everyone that I am still in touch with has been very supportive of it,” she said.
As for what else Grande and Co. left on the cutting room floor, her co-writer Victoria Monet revealed that they recorded another version of “7 Rings” that features an incredible Ari impersonation. In the singer’s own words, it’s “three minutes of drunkenly rambling as Julie Andrews.” Now that, I think we can all agree, is something the world needs to hear.
Check out Grande’s interview with Sang above — their discussion about the alternate versions of “thank u, next” begins around the 12:20 mark.