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An Insider’s Guide to Abu Dhabi—High and Low

GULF COURSE Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
GULF COURSE Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Photo: Christopher Pike for The Wall Street Journal

FOR THE LAST few years, Abu Dhabi, the capital city and largest emirate of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), has been steadily stealing visitors away from its flashier neighbor, Dubai, enticing them with a growing collection of cultural attractions. The biggest bait, a 260,000-square-foot Louvre opened last year on Saaidyat Island, a short drive from Abu Dhabi city. If all goes well, a Guggenheim designed by Frank Gehry will soon follow, as well as Norman Foster’s Zayed National Museum, named for Sheik Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who became the first president of the UAE upon its federation in 1971. Some 200 islands—many man-made and linked by bridges—comprise the emirate, along with the mainland’s expanses of red-tinged desert, where men have been hunting with falcons long before the UAE existed. Here, four locals help visitors suss out the key sites and scenes.


A Savvy Traveler’s Guide to Abu Dhabi

From desert excursions to a blockbuster museum, the top sites and scenes of this Persian Gulf capital

A falcon demonstration at Qasr Al Sarab resort in the Empty Quarter desert southwest of Abu Dhabi.
Christopher Pike for The Wall Street Journal

An Insider’s Guide to Abu Dhabi—High and Low

The Art Curator

Dyala Nusseibeh

Director of Abu Dhabi Art

PREHISTORIC PALMS / Al Ain Oasis Human settlement in this oasis—about a two-hour drive east of Abu Dhabi’s center—dates back to the Stone Age. It contains some 150,000 palm trees irrigated by a natural water system created centuries ago. Hessa bint Mohamed St., alainoasis

SEA CHANGE / The Corniche The Corniche is no longer the simple beach front area I remember. Now it is much more a space for public entertainment with open-air concerts by contemporary and traditional musicians.

BASIC BOUNTY / Bu Tafish The setting for this historic seafood restaurant is no-frills, but the fish is always fresh and delicious. Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Street

PORT CRAWL / Warehouse421 A warehouse district by the port of Mina Zayed, it’s now an art destination, hosting lively events and exhibitions year-round. warehouse421.ae

An Insider’s Guide to Abu Dhabi—High and Low

The Chef

Khulood Atiq

Author of ‘Sarareed: Emirati Cuisine from the Sea to the Desert’

CURRY WITH A VIEW / Ushna This bright, modern Indian restaurant has stunning views of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque from the terrace. Souq Qaryat Al Beri

Ushna Indian restaurant.
Ushna Indian restaurant. Photo: Christopher Pike for The Wall Street Journal

ISLE OF CHEETAHS / Sir Baniyas Island Once abandoned, this island 150 miles off the coast of Abu Dhabi (part of the Al Gharbia region of the country) is dominated by the Arabian Wildlife Park and filled with gazelles, cheetahs and giraffes. anantara.com/en/sir-bani-yas-abu-dhabi

TIME TRAVEL / Qasr Al Hosn This gleaming watchtower, the oldest stone building in Abu Dhabi, showcases the history of the country through artifacts. Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum St., qasralhosn.ae

THRILL RIDES / Yas Island There’s no better place for families than Yas Island, home to both Ferrari World and Warner Bros. World theme parks. ferrariworldabudhabi.com, wbworldabudhabi.com

An Insider’s Guide to Abu Dhabi—High and Low

The Real Estate Developer

Nadia Zaal

Co-Founder and CEO, Zaya Real Estate

ON THE HORIZON / Zaya Nurai Island The chic private-island resort (a 10-minute boat ride from Saadiyat Island) features villas that give you endless horizons. Or buy a day pass and go for a meal and showstopping sunset views. From about $750 a night or $120 for a day pass, zayanuraiisland.com

A Water Villa at Zaya Nurai Island.
A Water Villa at Zaya Nurai Island. Photo: Christopher Pike for The Wall Street Journal

PERSIAN BLUE / The Shore Abu Dhabi has such clear, beautiful waters. My favorite beaches include Al Bateen and the coastline that curves around Saadiyat Island.

SMALL SCALE / Al Sayyad Restaurant This restaurant in the Mina Zayed port, with only four tables, serves the freshest fish. It’s not luxury but offers a very authentic dining experience. Mina Fish Market, Al Meena

DESERT ISLAND FOOD / Al Maryah Island Just northeast of Abu Dhabi, this island is a new culinary hub, with world-class eateries like Zuma and Robertos. zumarestaurant.com, robertos.ae.

The Artistic Director

Bill Bragin

Executive artistic director of the Arts Center at New York University Abu Dhabi

An Insider’s Guide to Abu Dhabi—High and Low

FOREIGN LEGION / Tourist Club Area This neighborhood is filled with older architecture, small shops and a little bit of grit and funk. Al Sham is an excellent little bakery for manakeesh (Levantine flatbread). Al Zahiyah

KARAK BREAK / Madinat Zayed Shopping Centre Rather than coffee, I’d send people to the food court here for karak, chai with sweetened milk. Go after a stroll through the gold souk. Sultan Bin Zayed the First St., Madinat Zayad Mall

DUBAI DAY TRIP / Alserkal Avenue I love making road trips to this district in Dubai. It’s lined with galleries, Cinema Akil, the Fridge (live music), the Junction (theater) and the Flip Side, a vinyl shop.

Cinema Akil in Dubai, about an hour’s drive from Abu Dhabi.
Cinema Akil in Dubai, about an hour’s drive from Abu Dhabi. Photo: Christopher Pike for The Wall Street Journal

BUY THE BOOK / ‘Table Tales: The Global Nomad Cuisine’ This makes a great souvenir. More than a cookbook, it’s a social history of the city told through portraits of residents from different nations. homemadeinad.net.

Plus, Don’t Miss…
General view of Mawal at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi.
General view of Mawal at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. Photo: Christopher Pike for The Wall Street Journal

Qasr Al Sarab This palatial resort in the Rub’ al-Khali desert offers up-close-and-personal visits with falcons, spa and hammam treatments and a standout breakfast spread. From about $570 a night, anantara.com/ Afternoon Middle Eastern Tea at Al Meylas Lounge An elegant lounge at the Four Seasons hotel, it serves an assortment of British standards and local nibbles, such as medjool dates and scones with clotted cream. Maryah Island, fourseasons.com / Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque The largest mosque in the UAE has what’s reportedly the largest handmade carpet in the world. Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed St, Sheik Zayad Mosque / St. Regis, Corniche An opulent beach resort set on Corniche Road, it’s decked out with a sprawling swimming pool, butler service, several restaurants and “the world’s highest suspended suite”—on the 48th and 49th floors—which serves a “brunch in the clouds” to 50 diners on the last Friday of every month. From about $200 a night, stregis.com / Mawal With lofty ceilings and red Moorish tones, this Lebanese restaurant at Emirates Palace hotel is all glitz and glamour. West Corniche Rd, kempinski.com/en/abudhabi/emirates-palace

Ariana Grande Hits The Highest Of High Notes In Her ‘Seasons Of Love’ Cover With Frankie

Serious question: Does Ariana Grande ever sleep? While we patiently await tonight’s arrival of “Imagine” — the umpteenth song she’s dropped this year — the Sweetener singer is keeping fans fed with yet another new release.

This time, Ari teamed up with her brother, Frankie, to cover the Rent classic “Seasons of Love.” In the accompanying video, the siblings — along with Frankie’s friends Ben, Jon-Erik, and Dominic — take to a candle-lit studio to belt the Broadway tune from behind the mic. Frankie sings a full-verse solo that showcases his shockingly impressive range, while Ariana returns to her Broadway roots by tackling the powerhouse solo sung by Joanne in the musical. To absolutely no one’s surprise, she nails those sky-grazing whistle notes with ease.

In a press release, Frankie gushed, “I am beyond honored to have worked on this incredible project with my best friends in the world including my wonderful sister. Thank you Ariana for vocal producing as well as adding your magical voice to this beautiful song. I am so happy that I got to sing with you on one of our favorite Broadway songs from one of our favorite Broadway shows, RENT! “

Following the cover’s release on Thursday (December 13), Ari returned the love by tweeting, “How beautiful does @FrankieJGrande sound? I’m so proud of him and the year he’s had. The whole thing makes my heart so full. Thankful I got to be a part of it.”

The Grande siblings’ “Seasons of Love” cover was recorded to promote Fox’s live version of Rent, which airs in January 2019 and counts Vanessa Hudgens, Tinashe, and Jordan Fisher among its stars. Kiersey Clemons is taking on the role of Joanne in that version, and Ari’s definitely given her something to live up to!

Start Buying Furniture the Millennial Way—or Risk Missing Out

ARE YOU EXPERIENCED? New digitally native brands are obsessed with making the customer experience painless, in large part because they fear a social media backlash.
ARE YOU EXPERIENCED? New digitally native brands are obsessed with making the customer experience painless, in large part because they fear a social media backlash. Illustration: Tommy Parker

“BASICALLY, I DIDN’T see a risk,” said Eddy Banuelos of paying $1,045 for a sofa he’d never sat on or touched. The couch in question, an 86-inch model, handsomely tailored in a gray called Crushed Gravel, came from the website of new furniture company Burrow. It paid for the shipping and was prepared to cover return costs, too, if the 24-year-old Chicago pharmacy student found the sofa wanting upon arrival. A year later, Mr. Banuelos reports that his comfy divan has held up well, and he shrugs off what some might call a leap of faith: “I thought it was worth a try.”

Call it the millennial decorating difference. More-mature Americans, who didn’t learn their ABCs on an LCD screen, cringe at the prospect of an unwanted sofa hulking in their homes, and the anxiety of coordinating its removal. “Older people still like to see and feel, especially with a significant investment,” said Jennifer Mapes-Christ, a consumer-goods analyst with Freedonia Group. Millennials, on the other hand, “are in that digital universe, integrated into the idea of buying and returning and it’s not a big deal.”

For shoppers of a certain age, that need for tactile testing is a huge deal. That and an unfamiliarity with “millennial brands” that market via social media are keeping them from taking advantage of the efficient, direct-to-consumer, mostly digital companies disrupting the furniture, mattress and housewares industries. People over 45 buy only about a third of Brooklinen’s luxury bedding, for example. Still, that 4-year-old company, which opened its first pop-up shop in New York only last month, says it recently reached cumulative sales of $100 million with a strategy common to these upstarts: competitive prices, a carefully tweaked customer experience and generous return options that minimize risk.

Brooklinen accepts returns of 7-piece bedding sets (linen, starting at $423, shown here) for 365 days, minus $9.99 if you’ve washed them.
Brooklinen accepts returns of 7-piece bedding sets (linen, starting at $423, shown here) for 365 days, minus $9.99 if you’ve washed them.

Sites like Brooklinen are obsessed with keeping buyers satisfied for mostly one reason: the threat of social media backlash. A disgruntled purchaser can tweet dissatisfaction that goes viral. “That’s death!” said Edgar Blazona, founder of BenchMade Modern, which sells custom sofas through its website. “We do everything we can to not get that scenario. Sometimes it stings, it’s expensive, but we do it to inspire confidence.”

Another obsession? Uncluttered web interfaces. Companies that interact with customers mainly via the internet seek out an aesthetic that’s more editorial than commercial. Products are crisply silhouetted against white backgrounds, airily presented in rows of two or three. Language is spare and charismatic, as in 5-year-old furniture brand Article’s note on their newsletter email: “We’re not clingy: you can unsubscribe at any time.”

Some non-millennials have already discovered the millennial sites. This spring, Larry Olmsted, 52, bought a nine-piece patio dining set of coated aluminum from Yardbird, a Minnesota-based brand selling outdoor furniture. “The site itself is better and more well-thought-out than mainstream sites I looked at,” said the Hartland, Vt., author. He found the year-old company’s narrow selection—another telling sign of millennial retailing—limited, but in a good way. “Trying to sort the options at Wayfair and Overstock was oppressive.”

Sites like Yardbird typically launch with a non-mind-numbing offering and expand collections as they grow. Newcomer Dims. currently offers just four tables by five up-and-coming designers and will add seating in early 2019. Joybird, acquired by Lay-Z-Boy this summer, began in 2014 with 10 collections and, after reporting $55 million in annual sales in 2017, now offers 35.

The prevailing aesthetic tends toward the contemporary and clean-lined, hardly everyone’s taste. “The once-niche modernist market overall has grown significantly in the past decade,” said BenchMade Modern’s Mr. Blazona, but he’s not opposed to selling a rolled-arm love seat if demand merits it. “As our customer demographic evolves, ages or broadens, we would certainly consider adding more traditional styles.”

Simple decision trees help you make your choice, as do generous policies about mailing customers material samples: Sixpenny will send gratis one wood sample ($5 each for more) and swatches of all of their 37 fabrics.

Transparency rates highly for a typical millennial site. Along with the specifications for its assembly-required tables, sofa and platform bed, Floyd includes line drawings depicting exactly what pieces will arrive and in how many boxes. At Burrow, a model photographed recumbent on one of its couches is helpfully identified as being 6 feet, 1 inch tall, preventing surprises of scale.

Love of planet is a factor, too. When Yardbird co-founder Jay Dillon researched factories in Asia to source his furniture, he was so appalled by plastic litter he saw along the waterways that he vowed to incorporate the stuff into his product. His site reports that Yardbird used 30,000 pounds of intercepted ocean plastic in its outdoor furniture and packaging in 2017 alone. Joybird partners with conservation groups and says it plants more trees, reportedly 389,896 to date, than are used to manufacture the furniture sold.

The responsive customer service typical of these brands begins on their respective sites. “I love the chat boxes,” said Tara Blackman, 30, an ad-technology sales executive who’s bought several large pieces, including a $2,000 coffee table, sight unseen. “They’re the little thing that pops up and asks, ‘Can I help you?’ ” Many companies email you a transcription of your chat so you won’t get caught in a “but your customer service said…” debate.

Simple graphics compare the efficient direct-to-consumer model to the conventional retail supply chain. Mr. Blazona, an alum of Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware , describes the typical retail-store process: “A wholesaler buys a sofa from a factory for $1,000, marks it up to $2,000 and sells it to a retailer, who doubles the price again,” he said. “So you’re buying a $4,000 product that in reality cost $1,000.” By cutting out middlemen, these millennial brands can use higher quality materials but still keep prices reasonable, he said. And they can pay shipping, often saving customers hundreds of dollars.

Even as these brands roll out bricks-and-mortar shops, the model stays intact. They favor smaller 2,000- to 4,000-square-foot showrooms as opposed to the 50,000 square-foot mazes of mainstream retailers. “Less inventory, less rent overhead…often translates into lower-cost product,” said Mr. Dillon, who opened a 3,800 square-foot store in suburban Minnesota a year after launching his site.

The condensed supply line speeds up distribution. Brooklinen can deliver its bedding within two days. Burrow sofas ship out of their North Carolina factory the same week they’re ordered, said owner Stephen Kuhl. While Pottery Barn’s site estimates its made-to-order sofas and chairs in performance velvet will take from 6 to 9 weeks, BenchMade Modern’s Los Angeles factory is currently shipping custom sofas in 21 days (up from its typical 10-days, due to holiday demand).

Pottery Barn’s brand president Marta Benson defended the chain’s turnaround. “In some cases our quote times have grown to six weeks because we have a lot of demand for our quality of upholstery,” she said. “Disrupters have the benefit of single-category focus, digital-marketing focus and a clarity of message. We’re multigenerational, multichannel, multidimensional and have a decades-old reputation.”

These new brands attempt to offset their youth by reducing buyers’ risk. Casper mattresses set the standard in 2014 when it offered free shipping on delivery and return, and offered customers 100 days to decide whether their foam mattress, shipped rolled-up in a manageable box, made them a happy sleeper. Brooklinen will exchange sheets or refund returned sheets (minus $9.99) for 365 days, no matter the reason.

If you don’t like that nonrefundable sofa you had made to order by retailers like West Elm and Crate & Barrel, you’re selling it on Craigslist or giving it to your sister. BenchMade Modern, whose sofas are customizable to the inch, pays shipping for delivery and return within 100 days, no questions asked. “There’s some guilt with returning a $2,000 sofa,” said Mr. Blazona. “It’s OK! It’s in our business model.”

When asked if she’s heard of Casper, Brooklinen, Article or Burrow, perhaps via Instagram or Facebook , Suzann Kresse, 61, said simply, “I’m not on any of that stuff.” Yet the radiology technologist from Jefferson Township, Penn., said she’d consider buying a sofa she hasn’t sat on, given the sort of shipping and return policies these companies offer. “I work five to six days a week. If they had good pictures and I could read the specs, sure, I’d try it over going to a store. Quite frankly, who has time?”

7 ‘Millennial’ Design Brands to Know

Cutting out the middleman is as old as commerce itself. But if you’re not on social media, you likely haven’t heard of these direct-to-consumer companies shaking up the furniture industry.

Start Buying Furniture the Millennial Way—or Risk Missing Out
The Inside

The Inside’s co-founder and CEO, Christiane Lemieux, sold her lifestyle brand DwellStudio to e-commerce behemoth Wayfair in 2013. The design tastemaker now shares her travels to places like Milan and Marrakesh with 152,000 Instagram followers as she collects vintage textiles. The Inside’s 20 different furniture styles can be made to order with more than 100 proprietary upholstery patterns. The company carries no inventory and produces each product in the U.S., like the $299 Ink Melio Screen above, in under three weeks. theinside.com

Start Buying Furniture the Millennial Way—or Risk Missing Out
Yardbird

“We’ve worked hard to edit the outdoor-furniture industry down to the 10 designs most consumers look for,” said Yardbird co-founder Jay Dillon. The coated-aluminum bistro set below costs $1,097, including a 10-year warranty. Even with Yardbird’s 30-day trial policy for returns (charging $99 for return shipping and restocking), its return rate (excluding instances of damage) is 1%, compared to the roughly 2% average for bricks-and-mortar furniture stores, according to the Home Furnishings Association. yardbird.com

Start Buying Furniture the Millennial Way—or Risk Missing Out
Revival

Debuting last fall with one-of-a-kind vintage and original handmade carpets from Turkey, Revival’s prices are up to 10 times lower than comparable rugs at conventional U.S. retailers. Average price of a 5-feet-by-8-feet rug? $400. “Our Turkish team works with local craftsmen to customize product in response to demand for things like soft pink tones,” said California-based co-founder and CEO Ben Hyman. The business, planning to launch a similar model in India, predicts $1.6 million in gross sales by year-end. revivalrugs.com

Start Buying Furniture the Millennial Way—or Risk Missing Out
Dims.

The furniture brand launched in November with just four minimalist Taiwan-made tables. The pieces are designed by emerging global talents like Swede John Astbury and Korean Kyuhyung Cho, who created the ash-wood Caldera table below, $350, to help democratize the industry. The Dims. ethos includes subsidized delivery costs. “Unlike a lot of online furniture brands, we don’t pad our prices to offer ‘free shipping,’” said founder Eugene Kim. “We show how much it costs to ship a product and then pick up half the tab.” dimshome.com

Start Buying Furniture the Millennial Way—or Risk Missing Out
BenchMade Modern

“Our sweet spot is the older millennial looking to buy something that will last,” said founder Edgar Blazona, who points to better construction and materials to justify the highish prices on his eight customizable upholstered collections. All pieces—like the Skinny Fat chair above, $1,241 including delivery—feature a zipper where the leg bolts into the frame so you can eyeball the craftsmanship. A 100-day return policy also includes shipping. “I think we’ve gotten back one or two pieces ever,” said Mr. Blazona of the 3-year-old company. benchmademodern.com

Start Buying Furniture the Millennial Way—or Risk Missing Out
Burrow

Founders Stephen Kuhl and Kabeer Chopra reverse-engineered Burrow’s modular furniture, available in five colors, so it could ship from their North Carolina factory in UPS boxes and be easily disassembled and moved later. “I had a big inherited sofa that needed a second person to move,” said Chicago grad student Eddy Banuelos, who bought a three-seater and ottoman like the one pictured ($1,490). Delivery is free and return shipping within a 30-day trial is covered if you’ve held on to the packaging. burrow.com

Start Buying Furniture the Millennial Way—or Risk Missing Out
Article

Article, one of the most senior digitally native companies, was launched by four computer engineers in 2013 and has reached gross annual sales of $100 million. Its catalog of more than 2,000 modern Scandinavian, midcentury and West Coast furniture designs includes the Culla Spindle queen bed below, for $899. An ETA calculator on each product page estimates delivery time for your zip code, and a flat shipping fee of $49 covers delivery and returns within 30 days applies. “How do we do it?” reads the site. “We’re wizards. Just kidding: we’re obsessed with efficiency.” article.com

WHAT I’D NEVER, EVER BUY ONLINE / Shoppers of a Certain Age Come Clean

“I’d worry that a sofa might be uncomfortable and bad quality,” said Laurie Kantor Finn, 52, co-founder of a tech-education studio for children in Los Angeles. “Whenever I’ve bought a sofa, I’ve gone to 50 stores and sat on every one.”

“I’d want to touch and feel a piece of upholstery. Maybe If they sent fabric swatches—if I had that second tier, after a visual, of evaluating—I might do it,” said James Dale, 61, a management consultant in New York. ”But then again, I still think returning a chair or sofa would be painful. You’ve got the service elevator, etc. It’s not easy to manage.”

“I don’t buy any home furnishings online,” said over-50 Denise DeGennaro, a managing editor at a book publisher in New York. “I really like to go shopping for houseware things with my sister. It’s almost like a hobby.”

“I order a lot of things online—kitchen appliances, sheets, towels,” said Margaret Appleton, 55, an obstetrician-gynecologist from College Station, Texas. “But I wouldn’t order a mattress because I would want to lie on it. My son did get his online.”

“Sheets are so personal, and I really think you have to touch and feel them,” said Tammy Farley, a mid-50s co-founder of a hotel-consulting firm from Atlanta, Ga. “I am a hot sleeper and need percale sheets that feel crispy to keep me cool at night. I can only be sure I will like them if I can touch them.”

More in Design & Decorating

James Bond Is An Alcoholic, According To New Study

“Shaken, not stirred” is James Bond‘s catchphrase for a reason — the suave British Secret Service is a bit too fond of the drink. But is Agent 007 an alcoholic? Public health researchers have taken the time to study all 24 Bond films and have declared Bond a severe alcoholic.

Bond may have been too busy over the years driving fast cars and taking down seemingly insurmountable villains to stop and take care of his health, but the academics over at the University of Otago in New Zealand are here to call him and his employer MI6 out for what they have concluded is a chronic alcohol use disorder.

Per The Telegraph‘s report of research published in the Medical Journal of Australia, there is strong evidence pointing to James Bond suffering from a chronic alcohol consumption problem at the sever end of the spectrum. He has apparently sipped a drink 109 times throughout the course of the film series, with an average of 4.5 drinks in each film.

After enjoying a classy martini, the sophisticated secret service agent also engages in “risky” behavior such as badass fight sequences, high-speed driving and extreme physical efforts. Sure it looks cool on screen, but its characteristic of some serious alcoholism on Bond’s part.

According to the study, Daniel Craig’s Bond exemplified the extreme for the character’s alcoholism in 2008’s Quantum of Solace when he seemed to have 24 drinks, which would have put him at potentially fatal blood alcohol levels.

The study points a finger at 007’s employer MI6, who needs to “redefine Bond’s job to reduce his stress levels,” along with condemning M for often offering him a drink in the workplace. The researchers also suggested that MI6 offer more support for Bond in the field, and a stronger team approach so his job doesn’t weigh so heavily on him.

We’re all on the same page that James Bond is a fictional character, right?

James Bond is an iconic character that millions have watched mix martini-sipping with getting a day’s work done, so it does make sense for public health researches to study his behavior and identify it for what it is. Agent 007 is a character long looked up to by audiences, so this analysis proving that his actions detail one of a severe alcoholic is good information to keep in the back of one’s head next time we watch the character.

The next Bond film is currently in early development, with Daniel Craig reprising the role for the last time before potentially a new face takes up the mantle. Director of Maniac and Season one of True Detective, Cary Fukunaga is helming the project that began with Craig’s Bond in Casino Royale in 2006.

Maybe the character will think twice now that he’s been briefed about his alcohol disorder… but then again the man has stayed relatively the same age on screen since the ’60s so he might just say “live and let die” or “tomorrow never dies”, “die another day?”

Ariana Grande Can’t Stop Dropping Hints About Her Upcoming Thank U, Next Album

Turning her Twitter replies into a full-blown press conference, Ariana Grande couldn’t stop revealing more details on Thursday afternoon about her upcoming Thank U, Next album.

As fans flooded the singer’s mentions with questions, Grande shared as much as she could about “Imagine,” her new single dropping tonight, and the album at large. And despite the fact that Grande has already revealed so much about Thank U, Next, her latest tweets show she’s playing by her own rules for this album release.

As the hours tick down to the release of “Imagine,” fans looked for answers about the single’s cover art. Grande confirmed that a photo from her Instagram story, in which the word “imagine” is written in Kanji, is the official cover art.

Looking beyond tonight’s single release, fans got answers about the Thank U, Next tracklist, which Grande said is now complete and consists of 13 songs.

Those songs include titles like “In My Head” and “Fake Smile,” according to Grande’s afternoon tweets. With previously teased song-title teases in her “Breathin” and “Thank U, Next” music videos, many of the 13 tracks have already been named.

And while Grande won’t specify any favorite tracks besides all of them, she didn’t shy away from sharing her grandmother’s standouts.

Perhaps of most interest to Grande’s fans, it’s looking like Thank U, Next is slated for an early 2019 release at this point. The pop star was quick to calm her fans’ nerves, though: She promised to drop another snippet from the album by the end of this year.

With all those details laid out, Ariana ended her press conference – or at least logged off Twitter for the time being — before the “Imagine” release at 11 ET tonight.

The Best Party Makeup From the Drugstore

It’s that time of year again. The holidays are upon us, and with it, a break from our usual Netflix and chill routine on the weekends. Between the office holiday party, swanky cocktail hours, White Elephant gift swaps, and family gatherings, it’s hard to find time to breathe, never mind plan a killer party look worth showing people on Instagram that you left the house.

With such limited time, getting party ready can feel like an impossible task. One easy solution: The drugstore. The perfect red lip, false lashes, and glittery shadow are hiding in the aisles among the cotton balls and bar soap. Into a more natural look? Try a rose gold shadow palette that’s less than $10, or a festive glitter polish that won’t feel inappropriate at work on Monday.

The greatest part of all? These options are so easy to use, you can swipe them on the back of an Uber. Read on for the best party makeup from the drugstore.

Zodiac Holiday Gift Ideas: Jewelry, Beauty Gift Sets and More

The only thing people who love astrology love more than astrology is talking about astrology or specifically about their astrological sign. They want everyone to know their rising sign, their birth chart, their compatibility to other signs. Maybe they’re hard to read (Scorpio) or maybe they’re not (Aquarius). Regardless there is an obvious gift idea that will work for all astrological signs: presents that help them wear their sign (or their rising sign or their moon sign) on their sleeve (or their neck or their finger or around their shoulder). Basically anything with a constellation or zodiac symbol on it is fair gifting game.

Below find all the best zodiac gift ideas to give your favorite astrologically savvy friend, from cute beauty gift sets to great engraved gold jewelry.

The Best Books of 2018

To say that 2018 has been a complex year for women would be putting it lightly. No need to spook you with a comprehensive retrospective, but let’s just say engaging in the art of escapism has been a full-time job for many of us. And while disappearing into black holes involving 90-Day Fiance, Vanderpump Rules, or Hallmark movies might have provided some solace, odds are you’ve also retreated with the help of some of the best books of 2018.

Several of the year’s most beloved—and best-reviewed—works stories were written by women (Meg Wolitzer’s The Female Persuasion, for example), but that wasn’t a prerequisite for our staff to share the various novels and works of non-fiction they devoured—and adored. From novels by new writers that tap into what it means to living right now (Stephen Markley’s Ohio paints a grim picture of post-recession Rust Belt America and all that comes with it, Vox by Christina Dalcher gives The Handmaid’s Tale a dystopian run for its money) to compelling works of non-fiction that had everyone talking. Below, our picks for the best books of 2018.

Looks Like DC’s Batman Movie Is Finally Coming Together

Aquaman is about to come out, Wonder Woman 1984 has been delayed, Birds of Prey has a release date, a new title and a cast; the DCEU is moving along. And yet we are all still waiting to see what is going on with Matt Reeves’ Batman movie. The questions about the film are many and news about the project is scarce, but it appears that DC’s Batman movie is finally coming together, at least according to one reporter.

We should note upfront that this is not confirmed by the studio, but if it is true it’s a sign that things are progressing with DC’s long-awaited Batman movie. The director of the film, Matt Reeves, is also writing the script. Based on the tweet from The Wrap’s Umberto Gonzalez, the rewrites on that script are due by year’s end, which is mere weeks away.

Assuming Matt Reeves meets that deadline, we’ll be one step closer to this film becoming a reality. At that point things will hopefully start coming together and moving toward pre-production so that we can finally see Batman back on the big screen.

Back in September, the same reporter said that Warner Bros. loved Matt Reeves’ first draft of his Batman script and that the film was being eyed to start production next summer. With the revisions on that script due by the end of the year, things would seemingly be on track for The Batman or whatever it winds up being called to go before cameras sometime next year.

If Warner Bros. is satisfied with Matt Reeves’ revisions and good to go on the script, hopefully that would mean the first half of next year would also bring casting news and some details about the film itself.

Matt Reeves has spoken in very broad strokes about what he is looking to do with his interpretation of the Dark Knight, from emphasizing the Jekyll and Hyde nature of the character to focusing on his often overlooked skills (on the big screen at least) as the world’s greatest detective.

Of course more than what this Batman movie will be, the question on everyone’s mind is who will don the cowl in Matt Reeves’ film and beyond in the DCEU? All signs point to Ben Affleck being out of the DCEU (along with Henry Cavill), so Matt Reeves’ movie will presumably give the character an entirely fresh start with a new actor as Bruce Wayne.

It’s perhaps cynical to say, but the best thing about this news is that it isn’t bad news. The DCEU seems to be in a state of constant flux, unable to find its footing on solid ground. While actors are leaving the franchise and movies are getting delayed, Matt Reeves has been quietly plugging away at his Batman script. Things seem to be beginning to turn around with Aquaman and Shazam! and if anything has the power to make everything right, it’s a great Batman movie.

Keep an eye on our guide for all the latest from the DCEU and check out our 2019 Release Schedule to see the biggest movies coming to theaters next year.

10 Times Alex Rodriguez Was Jennifer Lopez’s Biggest Fan

I understand Alex Rodriguez is an important baseball player, but he’s also Jennifer Lopez‘s Instagram boyfriend, which is way more prestigious. Seriously, swinging a bat on some diamond-shaped field is nowhere near as cool as being J.Lo’s personal photographer. Just being in her presence is an honor, and Rodriguez 100 percent understands this. That’s why he takes every opportunity to gush about Lopez, either on Instagram or in interviews or just by admiring her lovingly on the red carpet.

Below, check out just a handful of times Rodriguez shouted his love for Lopez to the rooftops. Wouldn’t you do the same?