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On Ariana Grande’s “Eternal Sunshine” and its Lasting Impression

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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at KU chapter.

Singer-songwriter Ariana Grande released her seventh studio album, entitled “eternal sunshine”, on March 8, 2024. It was met with largely positive reviews, earning a 97% on Google and garnering subtle praise from the likes of The New York Times and Rolling Stone. Here, she is beautifully raw, bearing her emotions to listeners on tracks that feel like a new start. Grande teamed up with longtime collaborator slash pop legend Max Martin to create music that hits you in the heart.


Grande’s private life in the past year has been nothing short of a media frenzy. The timeline surrounding her divorce from real estate broker Dalton Gomez and subsequent relationship with fellow “Wicked” cast member Ethan Slater provided endless fodder for the internet. It has raised endless speculation about fidelity on all parties, and Grande has become labeled as a “home wrecker” and “serial cheater”. She never addressed the drama publicly and still doesn’t (directly) on “eternal sunshine”, but her situation cannot be ignored while listening to the lyrics.

She has created “eternal sunshine” — eponymously named after the 2004 film “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” — as partly a concept album. In the movie, Jim Carrey plays Joel, a man who has undergone a procedure to forget his girlfriend, Clementine, after a difficult relationship and eventual breakup. We get to see several points of their relationship as Joel goes through the process of slowly forgetting Clem. The story is told in a nonlinear fashion, so we also get to see Joel and Clementine meet each other again after they have chosen to forget one another. By the end, they find out about the procedure, and they choose to stay together again anyway. The film explores ideas of love and loss, showing the effects of a relationship gone bad but also exploring the significance that partners have on your life. It raises the old question: is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?


Grande does not shy away from this in her portrayal of the character. Her music video for “we can’t be friends” is said to be the core of the album, encapsulating the emotions she felt while writing and living it. The video borrowed heavily from the film in its visuals and story. It begins with Grande in a waiting room, filling out paperwork for “Brighter Days Inc.” to erase all of her memories and belongings that are tied to another person. She even signs the paper as “Peaches”, which is an homage to Kate Winslet’s character, Clementine. Grande is welcomed into a hospital room and hooked up to a futuristic device that rests on her temples. We are then transported through her relationship, stopping at key moments as Grande is forced to remember everything again in order for the procedure to work. We see her partner, played by Evan Peters, disappear from her memories, and it ends with them passing each other on the street, appearing happy with new partners and showing no signs of recognition. This departs from its source material, and Grande seems to be telling us that, for her, forcing yourself to forget is the only way to heal.

The album details the process of losing a relationship and finding a new one in an unexpected place. At the heart of it is this new experience that has completely changed her soul. These lyrics read in a much more diaristic style than is known for Grande to produce. While some songs have a familiar brazen tone that we’ve come to expect, a good portion of the songs feel truly intimate. Opening with the existential “intro (end of the world)”, she sets the scene in extremes. Grande ponders whether she and her lover will think of each other when the sun stops shining.

The song “imperfect for you” exemplifies this intimacy by reflecting an almost hopeless romantic scene, one in which Grande and her partner love each other for exactly who they are. Beginning with a dreamy guitar, Grande sings in a lower register how life has become better simply because of the other person, appearing like it’s them two vs the world.

Another song, “I wish I hated you”, tells us the complex experience of wanting something catastrophic to have ended a relationship, like that would make the pain more bearable. Backed by a repeating sparkly riff, it is otherwise bare, and you can hear the emotion in her voice. The whole album feels like she’s been ruminating, sitting on her story for so long, and the result is simple: clarity. This is evidenced by “don’t wanna break up again”, in which she sings “I made it so easy/spent so much on therapy”. She’s done enough self-reflecting for a lifetime due to the nature, and inevitable scrutiny, of her career. With fame comes a never-ending internal battle for what’s real; a constant reconciliation of who you are, what you deserve, and coming to terms with what you’ve done in your past in order to move forward.

The lyrics for this album feel more intricate than her previous works, and it’s worth noting that switch in storytelling. The themes are more mature, exploring loss, forgiveness, new love, the end of the world, and celestial language that separate these songs from the rest of her discography. It leans heavy on cosmic forces and belief in astrology. It features “Saturn Returns Interlude” as a song and a voice outro from Nonna at the end of “ordinary things”. This music is very emotionally raw and deeply personal. It acts as a delightful reset and gentle reintroduction into the music industry after spending so long working on “Wicked.” The songs’ instrumentation is beautifully atmospheric and strikingly honest. The lyrics are sharp, cutting you deeper with each new song. They are complexity disguised as a singular desire.

outside iNfluences

Grande has talked in length about what filming “Wicked” has meant to her. She was cast as Glinda in the upcoming first installment of Broadway adaptation in Nov. 2021. The film began rehearsals in Aug. 2022, and filming began in December of that year. Due to the strike, filming officially concluded in Jan. 2024. For that period, she remained largely out of the public eye, and social media posts appeared to be coming from someone brand new.

In an interview with Zane Lowe, Grande says that she feels more present for this album than ever before. A large part of that is due to the movie. I think of that experience like a bubble for her. It was a safe place away from the magnifying glass her life had become after “Positions.” She created a sacred bond with Cynthia and everyone else on set. Grande got her start in theater with the musical “Thirteen” and has been known to love “Wicked”. So there she was, in her dream role, living a private life, finding herself becoming in love with someone new. It was a transformative experience, one that created a perfect storm, allowing her the opportunity to create something special. So, no, she didn’t break any new ground for music in terms of genres or surprises, but what the resulting album says about her life feels more pressing than the originality of the work itself. She’s healed and happy, and this personal reinvention means more to her and to fans than any music could.


Ariana Grande is a pop superstar, and her album sets the stage for many other highly anticipated music releases this Spring. It is the biggest album of the year thus far, earning 195 million streams and 77 thousand copies sold. Her visceral lyrics have also made the album the most streamed in a single day in 2024 on Spotify. Grande was able to create something that conjured up equal amounts of warmth and pain for listeners. She made the album under the inspiration of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, so it is a mix between autobiographical and character writing. Grande doesn’t tend to shy away from revealing her personal life, but she also is okay with creating fictional scenarios in her music. The music video for “we can’t be friends” is visually striking, evoking a sense of Y2K as well as a futuristic space style that has become her signature.

This album knew exactly what it was and said what it needed to say for Grande. It has a clear visual and emotional theme and sounds cohesive. It sheds light on the media probing of the last year as well as telling her story of her old relationship’s end. She collaborated with familiar faces and leaves herself exposed, ready to move on from old territory, start fresh, and finally live in the light.

I'm a freshman at KU, and I graduated from Blue Springs High School in 2023. In high school, I had an interest in writing and competed in HOSA for Extemporaneous Writing. I achieved first place at State, and at Internationals I made the Top 10. Just last fall, I took anthropology and participated in the Public Anthropology Project, for which I received an award. For the past 2 years, I have worked at the childcare program at an elementary school in my hometown for kids before and after school. We act as their teachers, and I really enjoy working with kids. I can't wait to go back home and work again! In my free time, I love watching movies and tv. I'm a total fanatic about those things, and I love having movie marathons with plenty of snacks. I have also recently gotten very into painting my nails. It's become a serious obsession, and I now own more nail polish than I care to admit. I also love animals; I have a cat named Oreo and a dog named Chip.