After a LOT of teasing — remember 2012? Great days — Ariana Grande's thank u, next video is out and it's totally efficient. For an event video, it's also curiously uneventful.
It's not without its GIFable moments, and you can expect Troye Sivan being shoved into some lockers to land in your timeline soon, along with Kris Jenner waving around a camcorder. Will this video break records? Probably. Also, top marks for delivering a video that has a logical reason to include Santa outfits, in December, for a song that has nothing to do with Christmas.
Beyond all that, the video feels strangely unsatisfying. Movies aren't homaged or referenced — they're recreated, but with no clear reason why in either the song's lyrics or the video's narrative thread. There are some lightly amusing parts, but nothing you'd say was actually funny.
The Amusing Event Video against which all AEVs should be judged still feels like it's Katy Perry's Last Friday Night (TGIF). It has a few things in common with thank u next — there are cameos, it's nostalgic, it brings a song to life in an unexpected way. But Perry's video is also smart (Corey Feldman's Lost Boys reference, for instance, is almost so subtle that it goes by unnoticed), warm (the reinvention of Rebecca Black!) and genuinely funny ("I got some crazy text from Uncle Kenny who said he was going to start playing the sax again") in a way thank u, next kind of isn't.
Maybe the biggest 'this doesn't quite work' element, however, is that as a song thank u, next was something that arrived out of nowhere, when Ariana should have still been promoting her previous album, and became one of the year's biggest songs. It subtly reinvented what big pop acts are supposed to do. So a big-budget, heavily trailed and ultimately underwhelming event video feels like a small step back, in a year that's otherwise seen Ariana taking huge, bold steps forward.