Sure, it’s tempting to speculate about the subject of this wistful, waltzing ballad—a starry-eyed lullaby about a love that just couldn’t be. But does it really matter? A closer look reveals a pretty universal theme: the shadow of loss. In a message to fans on Instagram, Ariana said that many of her songs mourn “failed yet important, beautiful relationships,” and that “imagine” in particular reflects denial—the compulsive act of rewriting an ending with what-ifs and if-onlys. Anyone who’s experienced grief can relate to this method of coping, and eventually we’re all forced to pick ourselves up and move on. But for a fleeting, tender, bittersweet moment, she lets her mind wander into a dreamlike state where memories, however distant, feel like yesterday.
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