Sun. May 26th, 2024

Image: Ariana Grande’s “Eternal Sunshine” Album Cover

There’s an age-old notion that an artist’s best work blossoms from emotional trauma and turmoil. 

On March 8, pop sensation Ariana Grande ended her four year hiatus from the recording industry with her seventh studio album’s release, “Eternal Sunshine” (2024), a title paying homage to the 2004 film “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”

With how much time has passed since the 2020 “Positions” album, I’d grown hesitant about the seventh-studio album being Grande’s supposed best as she reiterated on her Instagram prior to its release. Having followed her career since her 2013 album debut with “Yours Truly,” I now confidently understand that “Eternal Sunshine” is her best work throughout these past ten years, undoubtedly. 

Track 1: “intro (end of the world)”

Grande’s supporters sensationalize her album intros for their often more delicate, personal introduction as to what will ensue on the rest of the album. I felt that her past intros were hard to beat with stunning vocal layering seen in “My Everything” (2014) with “Intro” or the 37-second “raindrops (an angel cried)” of “Sweetener” (2018). 

As always, the new intro proved heavenly with more lyrical substance than her past works. “Intro (end of the world)” eloquently lays the groundwork for what the emotionally-packed 35 minute album has in store. This intro paints a picture of a new love, inducing thoughts of fear of judgment, raw honesty and pure adoration. The listener reels in these simple yet complex human emotions through the lyrics, “If the sun refused to shine / Baby would I still be your lover? / Would you want me there? / If the moon went dark tonight / And if it all ended tomorrow / Would I be the one on your mind?”

Track 2: “bye”

In her “Eternal Sunshine” sit-down interview with podcaster Zach Sang, Grande referred to her second track “bye” as the most difficult to write given its simplicity. Personally, I try to live by the phrase less is more, and “bye” encapsulates exactly that. Grande simply relays that at times there are minimal words left for a given situation, other than the notion that it is time to go, and the only answer left to give is just that: “bye.” 

After a once-over of the tracklist reveal, I was comfortably sure that track two (with a title like “bye,” without even “good” in the word) was going to be one of the most emotional. Instead, it is one of the more upbeat of the entire 13 tracks, even sounding celebratory. I would personally attribute this to there also being good in goodbyes; letting go and releasing is sometimes synonymous with a wave of happiness to embrace in finally being able to say the three-lettered word, no longer feeling held “hostage to these tears.”  There is a poignant indication that there is an art in letting go and preserving personal peace. 

Track 3: “don’t wanna break up again”

Track three paints a picture of past relationship complications and a push-pull that Grande references as a “situationship.” Fans have pointed out online that the singer referred to her former marriage as that “situationship,” while others responded that she is legally binded to not reference marriage or divorce in her future work. 

Though with that said, Grande still writes a beautiful narrative without ever mentioning those two words. There is an admirable maturity in these lyrics due to her respect for her former partner, instead accepting remorse for both individual’s wrongdoings alike, and simultaneously hoping that there is no regret felt about the “little life” they once shared despite having to part ways.

Track 4: “Saturn Returns Interlude”

When it comes to track four, astrology plays a critical role in the 42-second interlude, serving as a point of reference related to the cycle of Saturn’s orbit around the sun. An individual’s “Saturn return” happens only three times in life, the first being between ages 29 and 30. In simplest terms, your Saturn returning is when the planet returns to the same position in the sky it was in when you were born. The interlude signifies a shift in Grande’s life given her tumultuously-implied marriage and divorce coupled with scandal, specifically when her Saturn returned. 

This was not something I easily understood given the context of Diana Garland’s monologue consuming this track — notably without any vocals from Grande, herself — but the more I listened the more I comprehended the sheer complexity Grande was sharing without saying it herself. The fade-out to “eternal sunshine” transcends any word I could spend a lifetime searching for, but inserting a tribute to Malcolm “Mac” Miller was the most pleasant surprise without it being a surprise at all.

Track 5: “eternal sunshine”

Any supporter of Grande or Miller is familiar with the unmistakable laugh that opens track five; and the whispered, “you’re supposed to be here with me,” is soul-crushing.

This is the first track I noticed a direct correlation to the album name’s origin — the film — not solely for its title but lyrical implications of trying to “wipe” her mind, as the 2004 film is dedicated to the main character, Joel (Jim Carrey) medically erasing his memories of ex-girlfriend, Clementine (Kate Winslet) after learning she erased all of her shared memories with and of him through said procedure. 

 I appreciated “eternal sunshine” for its themes of acceptance and moving forward.

Track 6: “supernatural”

Unlike other album themes of moving forward and heartbreak, “supernatural” embraces new whirring feelings of love and an emotional surreality that is separate from its accompanying tracks. Grande is allowing herself to welcome the unpredictable onset of emotions exclusive to falling again following emotional trauma, harmonizing that, “This love’s possessin’ me, but I don’t mind at all / It’s takin’ over me, don’t wanna fight the fall.” 

In the slightly deluxe version of “Eternal Sunshine,” Grande collaborated with long-time friend Troye Sivan on “supernatural.” 

Track 7: “true story”

Of each track, I felt the least personally connected to seven. I’m not sure what it is about this track that feels slower than the rest, but it may be its repetitive sound as well given the chorus is mostly “Gimme love,” and “No, this is not what I need.” 

Grande relays her version of the relationship’s remnants, emphasizing that games of lies and finger-pointing isn’t what she’s about nor does she have the time for it — accepting that she can and will play the villain in someone else’s book despite her own reality. 

Track 8: “the boy is mine”

Of the few upbeat tracks of “Eternal Sunshine,” track eight is one of my favorite sounds here. Obviously this track is dissimilar in sound and emotion from the rest, but it never feels like “the boy is mine” doesn’t belong alongside the other tracks. 

With heartbreak also comes new beginnings and unchartered territories, especially with reminiscent lyrics like, “Watch me take my time / I can’t believe my mind,” and “Please know this ain’t what I planned for / Probably wouldn’t bet a dime or my life on.” 

Track 9: “yes, and?” 

The lead single of “Eternal Sunshine” debuted on Jan. 12, leading many fans — myself included — to prematurely assume the album would possess a similar sound. The single interestingly stands alone in the album, both for its message and upbeat, early 90s era reference. Conveniently, Grande credits the 90s diva pop era as the reason she sings, Mariah Carey being one of her greatest influencers. 

She released the single’s remix on Feb. 16, inviting Carey to design her own spin on the feature without any of Grande’s influence. 

MusicRadar drew multiple connections between “yes, and?” and Madonna’s 1990 “Vogue” for pieces like its spoken word section and club sounds.

In a sit-down interview with podcaster Zach Sang, Grande referred to the single as something that “…lives on its own, and I also think it just sets the tone by saying everyone has sh*t going on that we don’t know about.” In this, she also referenced public discourse over the years pertaining to her body, face, hair and voice, essentially saying carry on and mind your business. 

Track 10: “we can’t be friends (wait for your love)”

I found the tenth track to be the heaviest on the heart. Similar to track five’s title, track 10 is a direct reference to “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” In doing so, the entire music video — and first video of the album — reenacts the mind-erasure procedure and replaying of memories that are replaced with new moments. 

“we can’t be friends” is by far the most outward homage to the film and even imitates film scenes, such as the main protagonist Joel’s procedure and his requesting to keep one memory as Grande does herself, clinging to a necklace, as well as the scene in which Grande and Evan Peters hold hands in separate beds before being abruptly pulled apart, as Joel and Clementine had. 

Track 11: “i wish i hated you”

There is something exceedingly vulnerable in “i wish i hated you.” Not only the lyrical implications, but in Grande’s whispered-like vocals and soft voice cracks in muttering that she wished she hated her former lover, wishing there was worse to him to justify a said hatred. 

On Sang’s show, I recall her mentioning track 11 not being one she would consider performing live and more than likely will not. A track as personal as this one seems only right to keep off-stage, but time will tell. 

Track 12: “imperfect for you”

What I have come to love about this track is that it transcends the idea of a romantic relationship. Of course that is what comes to mind with lyrics depicting love and hurt, but the beauty is that “imperfect for you” is multidimensional. 

On SNL’s March 10 show, Grande performed both “we can’t be friends” and the acoustic version of track 12 in an ethereal flowing gown surrounded by a sunset-lit screen and grass stage. She released the acoustic “imperfect for you” to streaming platforms and her YouTube channel shortly after.  

She revealed to Zach Sang that “imperfect for you” is her favorite track and I stand behind it being her best on the album.

Track 13: “ordinary things” feat. Nonna

I would have imagined that combining music dedicated to heartbreaking separation paired with songs about falling in love would make for a wobbly tracklist and album overall, especially given Ariana Grande’s discography had never before seen the topic of marriage complications until the seventh-studio album. 

The special thing about “ordinary things” is that it welcomes simplicity at its finest. No matter how much money or material items one can throw at another individual to hold their love, the lyrics represent time as the most valuable gift: that no matter what a couple does together, no matter the monotony or adventure, there will never be anything “ordinary” about their time shared.

It was such a pleasant surprise that the album worked as well as it did, and an even more pleasant surprise knowing that there is a general consensus that Grande was incredibly justified in feeling this is her best work to date. 

As of March 24, “Eternal Sunshine” has spent two weeks on the Billboard 200 chart as Grande’s sixth No. 1 album record. 

 


Angelina Stambouli is a second-year Communications major with a minor in Journalism. AS1031816@wcupa.edu

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