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Ariana Grande’s “Eternal Sunshine” sheds light on some of the star’s recent scandals

Grande reveals everything and nothing all at once in this vulnerable pop bible

<p>The album traverses her complex emotions with a vulnerability and transparency Grande has not yet exhibited.</p>

The album traverses her complex emotions with a vulnerability and transparency Grande has not yet exhibited.

Ariana Grande released her seventh studio album, “Eternal Sunshine,” March 8. At just under 36 minutes of run time, “Eternal Sunshine” is her shortest project to date, but arguably her most personal — it offers an exploration of her divorce, her reputation and the complex and intricate emotion behind it all.

The album comes on the heels of public controversy surrounding Grande’s love life. Grande divorced real estate broker Dalton Gomez, her husband of two years, in Oct. 2023, following rumors about an alleged entanglement between Grande and her “Wicked” costar Ethan Slater.  

Despite the rumors and allegations, Grande’s artistry stands on its own in “Eternal Sunshine.” In contrast with some of the other works in her discography, Grande was more involved in the writing process for “Eternal Sunshine,” being credited as the lead writer on every song. The album also has no features except a spoken interlude from “Nonna,” the pet name for Marjorie Grande, Ariana Grande’s grandmother. 

Another layer behind the artistry of the album is its title. “Eternal Sunshine” is derived from the 2004 film “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” starring Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet. After a painful breakup, the two characters undergo a procedure to erase their memories of each other, exploring the pain and complexity of romantic relationships. 

“Eternal Sunshine” reveals the inner workings of Grande’s mind and emotions, but for the most part remains ambiguous as to whom the lyrics are referencing. Many of the  songs only make use of pronouns like “he,” making it unclear if they are referencing her ex-husband, Slater or someone else entirely. 

From the opening line of the first song, it is clear that “Eternal Sunshine” is something special. The first track, “intro (the end of the world),” opens with the lines, “How can I tell if I’m in the right relationship? / Aren’t you really supposed to know that sh*t? / Feel it in your bones and own that sh*t? I don’t know.” This level of vulnerability in the first line poses “Eternal Sunshine” as the most open album Grande has released. Immediately, this sets the tone for the album. 

Next, the album flows into “bye,” a textbook pop breakup song. The first two tracks already provide a route for Grande’s emotions, a journey from confusion and questions to acceptance. In contrast to its heart-wrenching lyrics and subject matter, “bye” is a boppy song with a backtrack reminiscent of a light, pop-oriented and glittery 2000’s sound — setting a precedent for the sonic feel of the rest of the album. 

The next track, “don’t wanna break up again” continues the slick, chill pop sound ever-present on “Eternal Sunshine.” Here, Grande explores a hesitation to end a relationship. The chorus sings, “this situationship has to end / But I just can’t refuse / I don’t wanna break up again.” Her mention of a “situationship” conjures up questions about the subject of the song, but the songstress, again, remains ambiguous. 

The fourth track “Saturn Returns Interlude” is a spoken explanation of the astrological concept of Saturn “returning” read by astrologer Diana Garland. According to Garland, Saturn’s orbit is on a 29.5 year cycle. According to the speaker, Saturn is at a certain point in its cycle when an individual is born and will return to that sample place when they turn about thirty, bringing about a wake-up call when it does. While this track lends nothing sonically to “Eternal Sunshine,” it provides valuable insight on Grande’s mindset of growth and change while creating the album. 

The album then dives into the titular track “eternal sunshine” — which again explores a failed relationship — where Grande reflects on her past love with the fresh perspective provided by a new relationship. Grande then makes a complete shift on “supernatural,” a love-filled and lustful pop banger reminiscent of her previous work.

Track seven, “true story,” appears to be a commentary on the media attention that has been centered on Grande  during the past year. She sings about a curated “true story,” saying, “I’ll play the villain if you need me to / I know how this goes / I’ll be the one you pay to see play the scene / Roll the cameras, please.” The song allows Grande to demonstrate her usual vocal prowess, full of runs and high-pitched exhibitions. Grande follows this track with “the boy is mine,” a rework of R&B singers Brandy and Monica’s 1998 song of the same name. 

“Yes, and?” — “Eternal Sunshine’s” only single — borrows a backtrack from Madonna’s “Vogue,” marking Grande’s exploration of dance-pop on this record. The upbeat and catchy track is followed by a sadder, stripped-back pop ballad called “we can’t be friends (wait for your love).” This song — as well as track eleven, “i wish i hated you” — appear to address the range of emotions felt during a separation, seeming to reference her split with Gomez.

Grande closes the album with “ordinary things (feat. Nonna).” This track, featuring a spoken ending from her grandmother, comes full circle by answering the same question Grande opened the album with — “how do you know you’re in the right relationship?” After Grande sings about simple pleasures, Nonna offers an answer — she explains that while marriage has its challenges, if you are not excited when your partner comes home or if you can go to bed angry, then you know the relationship is not working. 

“And as I told her, never go to bed without kissin' goodnight / That's the worst thing to do, don't ever, ever do that / And if you can't, and if you don't feel comfortable doing it / You're in the wrong place, get out.” 

Grande did get out, and her experience created “Eternal Sunshine.” The album traverses her complex emotions with a vulnerability and transparency that Grande has not yet exhibited. However, the realness in her lyrics still lie behind a layer of ambiguity — perhaps an attempt to protect her heart. In this exploration, she poses many questions, but seems to reveal few answers.

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