Arts, Review

Ariana Grande Brings Back Her Pop Roots With a Twist in ‘eternal sunshine’


Pop star Ariana Grande released her first full-length album after an almost four-year hiatus. Eternal sunshine, which came out on March 7, is Grande’s seventh LP, and takes listeners through the tumultuous stages of heartbreak. 

Over the past few years, the singer has released singles and collaborations with other artists, such as remixed versions of “Save Your Tears” and “Die for You,” both by The Weeknd. “Yes, and?”—the house-inspired, seventh track on the album—was also released as a single on Jan. 12. 

Eternal sunshine borrows the name Michel Gondry’s Oscar-winning 2004 movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The film questions the importance of painful memories of past relationships in the formation of the individual: if we had the ability to delete bits and pieces of heartbreak, would we do it? This idea lays the foundation for Grande’s new release.

The album opens with “intro (end of the world),” the second shortest of the 13 tracks. The song begins with string instruments, and poses questions which Grande later answers over the course of the LP.

“How can I tell if I’m in the right relationship? / Aren’t you really supposed to know that shit?,” Grande sings. “If the sun refused to shine / Baby, would I still be your lover?”

Astrology is a recurring theme throughout the album. Grande often refers to “moon,” “stars,” “Saturn,” “cosmos,” and of course “sunshine.” In the spoken-word track “Saturn Returns Interlude,” astrologist Diana Garland gives a brief explanation of the wake-up call that comes with Saturn’s cycle every 29 years. 

Drawing on those ideas, and perhaps in an attempt to understand her failed experiences with love, Grande relates key moments in her relationships to the cosmos, and uses this to draw conclusions about both herself and significant others.

The unhealthy toxicity that often comes with infatuation is emphasized in “don’t wanna break up again.” Grande goes on about how she will have to act a certain way in order to get what she wants out of him, even though it is not right. 

“So I really gotta do / The thing I don’t wanna do / No, I don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t / I don’t wanna fuck with your head / It’s breakin’ my heart / To keep breaking yours again,” Grande sings. 

In the 24 hours following the album’s release, “the boy is mine” already became a fan favorite. The choppy, groovy track is reminiscent of Grande’s other hits. Both the title and content take inspiration from Brandy and Monica’s ’90s song of the same name. 

In an interview on Apple Music with Zane Lowe, the pop singer explained how she has “so many ’90s interpolation ideas,” and described the track as a “bad girl anthem.” Grande went on to say how she purposefully put the song right after “true story” on the tracklist, as the latter’s main message states how she’ll “play the bad girl if you need me to.”

“The boy is mine / I can’t wait to try him / Let’s get intertwined / The stars, they aligned,” she sings.

Even though no other musical artist is featured on eternal sunshine, Grande invites an important guest to narrate words of wisdom on the final track: her grandmother. 

“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’s grandmother says.

The final message by Marjorie Grande in “ordinary things (feat. Nonna)” offers a perfect wrap-up to the album. Eternal sunshine sheds light on a more mature side of Grande, while still remaining true to her loved-by-all pop roots. 

March 17, 2024