True love took a blow on Monday (Apr. 20) when it was confirmed that Ariana Grande and Big Sean had broken up. The pop singer and hip-hop star had been close collaborators before declaring their coupledom last October, recording songs like “Best Mistake” and “Right There” while presenting themselves as a power couple at the Grammys. “They both deeply care for each other and remain close friends,” read a joint statement yesterday, while a source told Us Weekly that the split was partially due to “conflicting touring schedules” in the near future.
Yes, the Ariana-Sean breakup is depressing from a celeb-watching standpoint — but it’s potentially promising from a music-loving standpoint. Ariana Grande is one of the most promising stars in pop, and she’s going through a high-profile breakup at the tail-end of an album cycle. The next move should be obvious: Grande needs to deliver an emotionally gripping breakup album.
Grande has already reached the Top 10 with songs about troubled romance — “Problem” was about being drawn to the wrong guy, and “Break Free” was about, er, breaking free from that guy. An Ariana Grande breakup album would not necessarily have to be a mope-fest: imagine Grande belting out a handful of “I Will Survive’s” or “Since U Been Gone’s” or “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’s” on her next album, emerging from the (amicable) wreckage of a celebrity romance stronger than when she dove into it. Why wallow in your sorrow when you can stand up and sing the “Single Ladies” for a new generation?
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Or maybe reveling in melancholy is the way Grande should play this hand. Wouldn’t it be sort of incredible to watch Grande attempt to pull off her own 21? She certainly possesses the vocal ability to target Adele levels of critical renown, and exceeds at thoughtful, mid-tempo R&B tracks like “Why Try” and “Love Me Harder.” As noted at the time of My Everything‘s release last year, Grande needs to add a show-stopping ballad to her oeuvre, and a breakup album would be the ideal platform for her own “Someone Like You.” Seriously, someone get songwriter Dan Wilson on the phone right now and have him draft a version of “Sometimes it lasts in love, but sometimes it hurts instead” that somehow includes the phrase “conflicting touring schedules.”
Here’s the best part of a potential Ariana breakup LP: we’d all know who she would be singing about. The Rumours Rule still holds, decades later: done in the right way, public art about a private situation is always completely fascinating. Imagine the fun of guessing which Taylor Swift song is about which Taylor Swift ex, multiplied by the juicy insight into the Ariana-Sean relationship! Imagine Grande casting a Big Sean lookalike in her music video, a la Justin Timberlake in his “Cry Me a River” clip! Maybe Grande is actually angrier than the joint statement lets on, and writes a scorching “You Oughta Know” that makes Big Sean look lamer than Dave Coulier. Or — and hold on tight for this one — what if Grande flips “I Don’t F– With You” onto the head of its creator, Big Sean? Forget “breaking the Internet” — Twitter would look like this.
Okay, let’s hope that Grande and Big Sean aren’t on such bad terms that another “I Don’t F– With You” is warranted. We’ve all been through nasty splits, but Grande is the one with the opportunity to turn her pain into musical power. Last year’s My Everything was an expansive breakthrough, but Grande’s third album could be the laser-focused diary entry fans and critics are waiting to hear. Purge your feelings, Ariana, and set forth on the tremendous breakup album you have inside of you.