Is Ariana Grande’s ‘Ghostin’ about Mac Miller and Pete Davidson? The song’s meaning explained

We investigate...

In February 2019, Ariana Grande dropped her fifth album ‘Thank U, Next’, coming just six months after the release of her previous LP ‘Sweetener’. In the NME four-star review, we described it as a “bold” record full of “positivity and hope”.

One of the record’s most talked-about tracks is ‘Ghostin’, it’s also one of the album’s most devastating moments. But what is the song all about? Read on to find out everything we know.

What’s the meaning of the song?

In January, Ariana tweeted a reply to a fan who had inquired about the meaning to ‘Ghostin’. She wrote that it was about “feeling badly for the person you’re with [because] you love somebody else. feeling badly [because] he can tell he can’t compare…. and how i should be ghosting him.”

The song is an emotionally-driven ballad that speaks of grief and regret, detailing the struggles in a relationship caused by a past heartbreak (“I’m a girl with a whole lot of baggage”). While the other half has “been so understanding,” the speaker nonetheless acknowledges all the unspoken hurt being caused because of the grief.

Ariana sings in the chorus: “I know that it breaks your heart when I cry again / Over him / I know that it breaks your heart when I cry again / Instead of ghostin’ him”.

The second verse strikes a more positive outlook, with the lines: “After all that we been through / There’s so much to look forward to”.

Who are the lyrics about?

Fans are pretty adamant in their theory that ‘Ghostin’ refers to Grande’s grieving over the death of ex-boyfriend Mac Miller while engaged to Pete Davidson. Ariana dated rapper Miller for two years from August 2016 to May 2018, with Grande and Davidson being to date later that month.

Ariana and Pete announced their engagement in June 2018 and remained engaged when Miller passed away from an overdose in September 2018. Grande paid tribute to Miller at the time on Instagram, describing him as a “dearest friend” and the “kindest, sweetest soul with demons he never deserved”. Grande and Davidson split and called off their engagement the following month.

It has been noted how there are similarities between the instrumental of ‘Ghostin’ and Miller’s track ‘2009’ from his 2018 album ‘Swimming’, the last album he recorded before passing away. Although it’s not known whether it’s a direct sample, fans have suggested that the backing for ‘Ghostin’ features a slowed-down version of the ‘2009’ intro.

There are also similarities in the lyrics between ‘Ghostin’ and Miller’s 2016 song ‘Cinderella’, which Mac penned about Ariana. The lyrics in question from ‘Cinderella’ are “You in my dreams, that’s why I sleep all the time”, while on ‘Ghostin’, Ariana sings: “He just comes to visit me / When I’m dreaming every now and then”.

There are also several other lyrical references in ‘Ghostin’ that seem to suggest Grande is referencing both Davidson and Miller.

In the first verse, Grande sings: “I know you hear me when I cry / I try to hold it in at night / While you’re sleepin’ next to me”. In a GQ interview during August 2018, Davidson confirmed that he had moved into Grande’s apartment in the New York neighbourhood of Chelsea.

Elsewhere, “Look at the cards that we’ve been dealt” could refer to the hardships that Davidson and Ariana have suffered in their lives: Davidson lost his father in the 9/11 attack, while Grande’s Manchester concert was targeted by a suicide bomber in 2017.

What else has been said about the song?

Journalist Natalie Weiner possibly referred to the song in a Billboard feature last September, suggesting that it was about Mac Miller, writing at the time: “Just before this interview, she was working on a new song, which, when she plays it for me later, I realize is about Miller.”

Meanwhile, Savan Kotecha, who co-wrote the song with Ariana, told Rolling Stone of working on the track: “[When we were writing] ‘Ghostin,’ we were in New York… The song speaks for itself in terms of what it’s about. We were with her for a week in New York witnessing that, witnessing her feelings on that.”

Kotecha added that work on the song was a group effort: “We all wrote it, but she never really loved the verses we had. [Singer-songwriter] Victoria Monet was with her, and her and Victoria rewrote the verses a few weeks later. That’s a good example of how she doesn’t give up on a song. She keeps trying to get it right for her.”

Ariana Grande

Njomza, who was also involved with the ‘Thank u, next’ sessions, has said that Grande’s grief was still raw when they were in the recording studio. He told NPR: “Me and Mac were really close. He was one of my best friends. So [Ariana and I] were just around each other all the time because of him. … So after Mac passed, she was really hurt. I was really hurt. And I think it kind of brought us together a little bit closer because of what we were going through. We could understand each other. She surrounded herself with people who could understand.

Adding: “The songs were written really, really fast. From [September to October], it was almost like a song a day. … Ideas were just getting shouted out and people were just like adding on with other stuff. It’s really cool. It was a lot of really amazing, boss, female energy.”