What Is Ariana Grande's "Leave Me Lonely" About?

There aren't a ton of albums that I get as excited about as I have for Dangerous Woman, and, when I get excited about something, I go deep. Which is how I came to find myself doing analysis Ariana Grande's "Leave Me Lonely" lyrics. It's the eighth track on the album, and features Macy Gray, which I really loved as a collaboration; Gray has been coming back to music of late, but no matter what, her signature vocals send me right back to 1999 and "I Try," which was a nice nod from an artist 26 years Gray's junior. So in addition to being a throwback of sorts, what is "Leave Me Lonely" about?

The short answer is that it's about a relationship that you know is unhealthy for you, but that you find yourself coming back to anyway. We get introduced to the situation by Gray, who sings:

Dangerous loveYou’re no good for me, darlingYeah, you turn me awayLike I’m begging for a dollar

So it sounds like someone who's appealing almost precisely because they're so unavailable. And the danger is that you'll get sucked right back into it again, even though you're perfectly aware it's a bad situation. And then Grande comes in:

Is it love when so easily said goodbye?Is it love when we’ve given up before we tried?Is it love when you stole my peace of mind?Is it love when you cry, and cry and cry?

I mean, we've all been there, right? It's such a familiar feeling, when you find yourself questioning everything, and wondering how you'll know when it's the right moment to cut your losses and walk away. But you've already invested so much time and emotion that you aren't really thinking clearly. The only way to really end it is to cut it off completely, as we see in the pre-chorus.

So when you walk out that doorDon’t you come back no moreMy heart has had enough of the give and take

She knows she has to go cold turkey if she wants the break to be permanent; otherwise they'll just keep endlessly drifting back to each other like Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber. So even though Grande still has feelings for the man she's singing about, this song is about realizing that she needs to finally pull the plug and end it for good. No matter how much pain it causes her in the short term, it's the only way forward in the long term.

You’re a dangerous loveBaby, you’re no good for me, darling‘Cause if you’re gonna love me and leave me hanging hereThen I’d rather you leave, leave me lonelyEven though it hurtsDangerous love, baby

I feel like it's an empowering song about taking back your own agency, untangling a complicated relationship, and finally doing what's best for yourself. It's gotta be a familiar topic for both of us, and I think Grande does it justice here.