Song: ‘Break Up with Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored’
Artist: Ariana Grande
US chart peak: 2* (*so far)
Release date: February 8, 2019
Writers: Ariana Grande, Max Martin, Ilya, Savan Kotecha, Kandi Burruss, Kevin Briggs
Producers: Max Martin, Ilya
Quintessential Max moment: The sudden tempo shift in the pre-chorus.
Video synopsis: A Hollyoaks-on-a-budget house party with a slightly too obvious flip at the end.
I banged on about Max’s slightly odd 2018, and where that left him ‘vis-a-vis’ being the best and most consistent pop producer in the world, in this waffle that accompanied Ariana’s ‘God is a Woman’. If you can’t be bothered to click the link, a summary: ‘Sweetener’ was a bit of a letdown when it came to Max’s input, his name only appearing on four songs, one of which was a short intro and another, ‘God is a Woman’ in fact, only crediting him as a songwriter. This was also a year where he only ‘scored’ two US Top Ten hits and suffered some slightly odd flops (looking at you ‘We Are Fucked’). What was going on? Well, maybe he was focused on ‘& Juliet’ the slightly batshit-sounding jukebox musical that utilises his biggest hits and arrives in the UK in September?
Either way, Ariana’s ‘Thank U, Next’, ‘Sweetener”s hasty follow-up, not only features four Max co-creations but, more importantly, they’re all stellar. ‘Bloodline’ is an excellent Rihanna single with a brilliantly incorrect grasp of genealogy; ‘Bad Idea’ is a gorgeous chorus buoyed by a cluster of intriguing production flourishes, while the heartbroken ‘Ghostin” is so effortlessly beautiful I recently played it on a loop while staring out the window and cried on at least three occasions. Then there’s the excellently-titled ‘Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored’, the album’s third single* and, in the UK at least, third straight Number One. It also represents Max’s first US Top Ten in 2019, entering at number 2 (behind the inferior-but-what-can-you-do ‘7 Rings’).
The song was first mentioned by Grande on Twitter in January when she replied to a fan’s question about adding songs to the album. “i added a fun one (lol) to replace one that i decided i don’t think wanna share w the world,” she mused (the sad song in question is ‘Remember’). “so we back to twelve tracks. i appreciate u understanding in advance.” And we did understand, and she was right, it is a fun one (lol). Tacked onto the end, ‘Break Up…’ is the album’s most unadulteratedly fun (lol) song, built around a story as old as time; you’re in da club, you see someone who’s quite fit, you start to stroll over and BAM they’re with someone already. Annoying. Obviously this being Ariana in 2019, the video tries to crowbar in a self-love aspect, with the girlfriend being an Ariana clone so that when they almost kiss at the end she’s sort of falling for herself. Sort of.
Basically, the song’s a banger, all metronomic click beats, weird sonic globules, a proper ear worm of a chorus, and a really excellent bridge bit towards the end that interpolates *NSYNC’s 2000 album track ‘It Makes Me Ill’ (seriously that bit where the beat drops out, the bassline glides into double time and Ariana croons “you could say I’m hatin’ if you want to” is a proper stomach flip moment). It’s not the song’s only sudden tempo shift either, with the slowed down pre-chorus being another highlight. Representing a moment of clarity – “then I realise she’s right there” she sighs – the beat splinters and an ominous, almost hymnal organ sound arrives. Getting cock-blocked never sounded so sad.
(* It’s sort of interesting that this is where Max is at the moment, i.e. his song is the third single rather than the lead, but this is how pop goes sometimes, no one panic!!).