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Eternal Sunshine: Eternally Ari

Eternal Sunshine preview photo.
Google Open Source
Eternal Sunshine preview photo.

Ariana is back and mother has delivered. This is all I have been listening to for the past 36 hours. Coming off her recent divorce, Ariana Grande returns to the charts with her seventh studio album, “Eternal Sunshine,” which was released on Friday, March 8.  

The long-awaited album follows the Grammy nominated “Positions” and explores her emotional journey through heartbreak and finding herself. A longtime Jim Carrey fan, Grande takes inspiration for her title from the 2004 film “Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind.” The film explores the inability to remove memories of a relationship from one’s head, even through surgery.  

Never one to shy away from heavy topics, Grande pours it all out from track to track. You cannot help but notice similarities between the Jim Carrey film’s plot and the themes of the album. Each song layers topics on each other, giving listeners a look into her headspace. Her iconic R&B/pop sound we have come to know from “Dangerous Woman” is on full display through tracks like “the boy is mine,” “Eternal Sunshine” and “True Story. 

In interviews, Grande has said this album is a concept album. The track list has a definitive start and end, keeping a constant theme through each song. “intro(end of the world)” and the interlude really lean into this label. She asks questions like, “How can I tell if I’m in the right relationship?” right off the bat, setting the tone up front.  

The approach is a breath of fresh air in her music. Like a lot of pop albums, her other works skip around, where “Eternal Sunshine” flows and has a consistent sound. She switches her powerful voice with a more mellow and aching tone that adds more vocal depth to the album.  

“Eternal Sunshine” has a satisfying progression to it. The first half of the album has drive. It rides the beat and displays Grande’s beautiful harmonies. “yes, and?” remains the odd track out as it has a more traditional pop sound. “bye” and “the boy is mine” have a similar sound but adopt a more disco and heavy synth sound.  

It splits the album in half and sets up what I see as the “moving on point” of the album.  Past “yes, and?” the songs start to slow down, and the production value is simpler. I see these songs as Grande beginning to reflect. Each track has a more mellow and lo-fi sound.  Grande really allows herself to feel everything in her latest release and it chips away at the girl-boss optimism of “Thank u, Next” and “Sweetener.”  

Grande taps into her ability as a songwriter to play with words, alluding to her proclaimed “situationship,” cheating allegations and misinformation through the record. The self-aware tone she takes digs into how little control she feels she has over the public perception of her relationship, now divorce. Grande has addressed her personal life leading up to the album’s release in an interview with Zach Sang, stressing her need to separate herself as a person and a pop star. The subtle mentions of her unappreciative ex-lover are her jabs to take and that’s her business.  

This new era of Ari has been a long time coming. Comments from critics about her appearance and ‘missing the old Ari’ have built up and Grande has responded. The answer? A strong R&B/pop album that is worth listening to more than once. It’s intimate, it’s complex and it begs to be experienced front to back with no skips. If you are looking to give Grande’s music a try, “Eternal Sunshine” is a great starting point. Glad to have you back queen.  

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