After a whirlwind romance, Ariana and Pete broke off their engagement in October 2018. In a promo clip for Saturday Night Live, Pete appeared to make a dig about the breakup when he jokingly proposed to musical guest Maggie Rogers. After she rejected the proposal, he turned to the camera and said "0 for 3", referring to his previous relationships with Ariana and Cazzie David.
Ariana tweeted hours later, name-dropping "Thank U, Next" for the first time and saying: "For somebody who claims to hate relevancy you sure love clinging to it huh." Releasing the song an hour before Saturday Night Live aired, she added that the song was the "opposite of a diss track", instead describing it as being about "gratitude, growth, [and] embracing our path bumps n all".