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Eternal Sunshine is Ariana Grande unapologetically in her villain era—and at her very best

Eternal Sunshine is Ariana Grande unapologetically in her villain era—and at her very best

Eternal Sunshine is Ariana Grande unapologetically in her villain era—and at her very best
Katia Temkin, courtesy of Republic Records

"I'll play the villain if you need me to," the pop superstar sings on the track "true story" from her highly-anticipated seventh studio album.


“I'll play the villain if you need me to.”

The lyric (from the track “true story”) is not an admission on Ariana Grande’s seventh studio album, eternal sunshine, but a mantra.

Courtesy of Republic Records

The pop superstar, who went through a divorce just last year, cut open her chest to expose the bloody aftermath of her two-year marriage the best way she knows how.

The title track of the album (her first in over three and a half years) is an homage to the 2004 film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind starring Jim Carey and Kate Winslet, following the story of a man going through a tough breakup who decides he’d prefer to wipe his memory than grapple with the painful history of their failed relationship.

“I'd rather forget than know,” Grande sings on the track. “What we could've fought through behind this door.”

Fans believe Grande is referring to former husband Dalton Gomez, whom she divorced in 2023. While she’d rather forget the pain in the verses, she calls her ex her “eternal sunshine” in the chorus, seemingly accepting their fate and trying to embrace the relationship in its entirety.

Grande tenderly comes to terms with the end of her marriage most tragically on “don’t wanna break up again.”

“I fall asleep crying,” she opens the song. “You turn up the TV/You don't wanna hear me/One more sleepless night.” The heartbreaking bridge breezes in, “So we say goodbye/Just one kiss goodbye with tears in our eyes/Hope you won't, won't regret me/Hope you still think fondly/Of our little life.”

Sonically, the lead single “yes, and?” is an outlier on an album that lives much closer to her last record positions, lush and reflective, than the bombastic pop diva that thrived on Dangerous Woman and Sweetener. But eternal sunshine is admittedly the most interesting when she grapples with her own fame – and the public perception of her love life.

When it comes to breakups, people love a villain. Movies and love songs have taught us that much. It’s clean, easy to know who to root for. When there’s not an obvious evildoer, we make one up. Well he did that… But she did this… Sometimes can be a coping mechanism, something needed to heal. But for Grande, who publicly chose to give her exes grace as noted in the lyrics of her first No. 1 hit, “thank u, next,” one might expect to be given grace in return.

As she began dating her Wicked co-star Ethan Slater last spring, it became clear that was too much to ask from the general population. When their romantic relationship became public, the Broadway star had recently posted a photo of his newborn child, and a theory that Grande “stole” Slater away from his wife and kid quickly picked up steam. Though the timeline of their individual breakups is unknown, unclear, and not really anyone’s business, the homewrecker theory is still largely believed to be true despite remaining unconfirmed (or denied) by anyone involved.

The pop star remained tight-lipped about all of the speculation until the January 2024 release of the ’80s-inspired dance track, “yes, and?” where she mockingly addressed the public.

“My tongue is sacred, I speak upon what I like,” she sings, cheekily adding, “Why do you care so much whose **** I ride?”

The lead single sits in a trio with tracks seven and eight, “true story” and “the boy is mine.” The former introduces the theme. “This is a true story about all the lies/You fantasized/'bout you and I.” It’s purposefully unclear if she’s addressing a lover or the public.

Track eight, “the boy is mine,” began trending on social media minutes after the album debuted on streaming services late Thursday night. Channeling Brandy and Monica’s 1998 hit of the same name where they fight over a boy, Grande’s version alludes to those “homewrecker allegations” with a wink. “I'm usually so unproblematic,” she sings. “Promise you I'm not usually/Like this, shit, it's like news to me, to me/But I can't ignore my heart, boy.” Grande previously described the song to Zane Lowe as an elevated “bad girl anthem.”

Despite leaning into the gossip, eternal sunshine maintains that Grande’s villain era is more about perception than reality.

In reality, more often than not, there is no clear-cut villain. It’s just two people, messy, in love, and trying their best. Your ex isn’t some maniacal heartbreaker. He’s just some guy. And Ariana Grande’s just a girl.

eternal sunshine is about grappling with everything that happened in a relationship: the beautiful, the devastating, the what-ifs, and, yes, your own fuck ups. No rewriting history, you can only bask in it – and learn from it.

Katia Temkin, courtesy of Republic Records

Standout tracks: “the boy is mine,” “eternal sunshine,” “don't wanna break up again,” “i wish i hated you,” “bye”

eternal sunshine is available on Spotify and wherever you stream music.

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