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The Official Student News Site of Parkway West High

Pathfinder

The Official Student News Site of Parkway West High

Pathfinder

Walking on “eternal sunshine”

Ariana Grande’s seventh studio album is a triumph of vulnerable songwriting and punchy pop production
Singer-songwriter and actress Ariana Grande poses on the cover for her newest album “eternal sunshine.” Grande’s seventh studio album arrived on March 8 after a three-year drought, granting the long-time wishes of her fanbase; for Grande, it was the most emotional project she’s ever made. Although this album captures a lot of painful moments, it also is woven together with a through line of deep, sincere love, Grande said via Instagram story following the album’s release.
Samir Shaik
Singer-songwriter and actress Ariana Grande poses on the cover for her newest album “eternal sunshine.” Grande’s seventh studio album arrived on March 8 after a three-year drought, granting the long-time wishes of her fanbase; for Grande, it was the most emotional project she’s ever made. “Although this album captures a lot of painful moments, it also is woven together with a through line of deep, sincere love,” Grande said via Instagram story following the album’s release.

As the music industry undergoes a major transitional period in 2024, older legacy artists have begun to slowly age out of the mainstream and new artists have risen on the charts. This time has been fraught with hesitation towards rising young artists because of listeners’ existing ties toward the many consistent hitmakers of the 2010s, those who have been phasing out from music and shifting their focus to other ventures. Among these artists, one recognizable voice has been sorely missed on the charts and the radio — singer-songwriter and actress Ariana Grande.

With the end of Grande’s previous release, 2020’s “Positions,” came a three-year hiatus from the superstar, as she set her sights on new accomplishments such as an extensive beauty line and the lead role of Glinda in the adapted movie of the musical “Wicked.” During these three long years, Grande infrequently peeked her head out of the water to release stand-alone songs. In 2021, she collaborated with rapper Kid Cudi to release “Just Look Up” from the movie soundtrack of “Don’t Look Up.” She also partnered up twice with longtime collaborator and friend The Weeknd to make remixes of his songs “Save Your Tears” and “Die For You.” Then, recently in 2023, she recorded special live performances of some of the tracks from her 2013 debut album “Yours Truly” for its 10th anniversary. 

These releases, while nice, were only small moments in time. Grande’s fans were still left wanting more, and the music industry was missing an integral persona. As the months crept on, hope for a new album waned indefinitely. But in December 2023, Grande’s various Instagram posts of her in a recording studio with legendary pop producer Max Martin got fans talking. And in Jan. 2024, she finally granted their wishes, announcing her seventh album “eternal sunshine” which would release on March 8.

eternal sunshine” is Grande’s first-ever concept album, which is a musical body of work with an overarching theme and story throughout. For this album, Grande took loose inspiration from the film “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” with a general theme of heartbreak and healing after a tumultuous relationship. The album’s standard edition contains 13 tracks and is 35 minutes long, Grande’s shortest album to date. But don’t be fooled by its concise runtime: this album is Grande’s deepest and most personal project to date. Executive producers for the album included the aforementioned Max Martin and also Grande herself, who worked on producing the vocals for many of the tracks. 

Grande commences the story of “eternal sunshine” with the question “How can I tell if I’m in the right relationship?” during the dreamy “intro (end of the world),” a love song that begins with a melodic symphony of strings and electric guitar, followed by gentle vocals and layered harmonies. As Grande sings about a love that could persevere through ‘the end of the world,’ this track captivates listeners with the underlying component that has drawn us all to her music for decades — her undeniably majestic vocal control. Her impeccable vocals only continue into the next track, “bye,” an eclectic disco-inspired song with punchy background synths, rhythmic snaps and a funky snare track building to the infectious chorus about Grande respectfully stepping out of a draining relationship. As a powerful second track, “bye” follows Grande’s articulate runs and hazy harmonies into pure pop-disco bliss as she discusses an alternative perspective to the romantic relationship described in her introduction track. After a seamless key change in a bridge full of stripped harmonies, Grande brings us to a closure with the reminder that it’s always warranted to finally say ‘bye.’

The “eternal sunshine” tracks, ranked.


Moving through the album, it continues to become evident to listeners of the influence of the beats, style and vocal cadences of classic ‘90s and 2000s R&B in the making of “eternal sunshine.” The downtempo “don’t wanna break up again” juxtaposes a nonchalant percussive beat with melancholic lyrics about issues forming in Grande’s relationship. Impressive vocal agility meets expressive minor harmonies over a classic rolling drum track on the ominous “true story,” an expression of Grande’s songwriting nature within the premise of her difficult relationship with the media, following her divorce from real estate agent Dalton Gomez and subsequent ties with actor and singer Ethan Slater. “the boy is mine” fulfilled high expectations from fans, who greatly anticipated the track in hopes that it was similar to Grande’s illegally-leaked track “fantasize,” which trended in 2023. Incorporating minor-key synthesizers and cadenced claps, this track develops a flirtatious rhythm layered with Grande’s underrated lowest register vocals throughout the verses. 

Classic synth-pop songs also make an appearance on the album, putting an elevated twist on the genre that Grande has occupied for over a decade. “supernatural” unfolds addictive melodies and dreamy harmonies right from the beginning, as Grande mixes her lower, fuller range in the verses with her falsetto high notes during the chorus. On the emotional “i wish i hated you,” Grande details the sorrowful events that occurred after her divorce while also reflecting on the relationship as a whole over an airy synth production with few embellishments. The penultimate song on the album, “imperfect for you,” once again shows off Grande’s phenomenal lower range as she sings about feeling safe and happy with the one that she loves after a period of pain and disillusionment.

A brief interruption to the album’s flow of melodies arrives with “Saturn Returns Interlude,” which features a distorted version of astrologer Diana Garland’s voice over a cosmic background trac as she explains the significance of the Saturn cycle. The repeated broken phrase “wake up” is interpolated with a cut of Grande’s laugh, hypothesized by listeners to be clipped from a video of Grande and the late rapper Mac Miller, and tugs at listeners’ heartstrings before seamlessly transitioning into the album’s title track, “eternal sunshine.” A fluttery falsetto chorus layered over electronic trap drums similar to the production in “Positions,” intensely personal songwriting and the song’s catchy rhythmic bounce allow “eternal sunshine” to secure a spot as one of Grande’s most well-rounded, well-developed tracks, serving its role as the title track proper justice. 

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Republic Records

So far, “eternal sunshine” has two singles, the first being the ninth track “yes, and?” Released on Jan. 12, the song debuted at no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, marking Grande’s eighth time achieving such a feat. The track itself contains a major influence from house music, standing in stark contrast to the sound of the rest of the record. It also interpolates the legendary house track “Vogue” by Madonna, and lyrically, it discusses the backlash Grande faced in the months leading up to the album from the press relating to her personal life and relationships. Grande released a music video for the song in which she performs a fully choreographed dance routine in front of a group of skeptical critics, once again playing into how news outlets dug into her personal life. The song, while necessary for Grande to make, feels out of place on the album because of its wildly different production, and disrupts the overall flow of the tracks and the story that she’s trying to tell.

The second single from the album, and what is in many ways the thesis statement of the whole project, is “we can’t be friends (wait for your love).” Featuring a pulsing synth background that reminded listeners heavily of “Dancing On My Own” by Robyn, Grande emotionally tells the story of her dissatisfaction in a relationship and the struggles of deciding if she should stay or leave. The song was accompanied by an emotional music video, continuing the album’s clear inspiration from “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” as Grande erases the memories she once had of an ex-lover. The song and music video both show the emotional depth that Grande expertly portrayed throughout “eternal sunshine” and show a maturity to the singer that we’ve never really seen before. 

The album comes to a close with “ordinary things” featuring Nonna. Marjorie “Nonna” Grande, Grande’s grandmother on her mother’s side, has been an invaluable part of her life over the years. Nonna has become a fan favorite, as well, with many of Grande’s fans enjoying her lighthearted and humorous personality. The song runs through all of the things that Grande and her lover could theoretically do together, like “pop all the champagne in California” or “hit up all the slopes in matching snowsuits,” then goes on to say that all Grande wants is time and that nothing that they ever do together will be an “ordinary thing.” It closes with a recording from Nonna where she discusses her past lover and how he impacted her life, effectively answering the question asked at the top of the album with this advice: “Never go to bed without kissing goodnight. That’s the worst thing to do.” With those remarkable closing words, the production fades out and leaves just the sound of Grande laughing with her grandmother. 

After what seems like an eternity, Grande is finally back to making music again, her voice a long-awaited, refreshing sound that carries over the rest. There was definitely a lot of pressure on Grande to deliver a full-sounding body of work with this album given her track record with her previous projects, but in our minds, she did just that. “eternal sunshine” works beautifully as both a continuation of Grande’s story in the context of her discography and also its own standalone project. The story that Grande tells throughout the album’s tracks gives the whole project a strong sense of unity, and its overall themes show maturity and depth of thought. Because of the album’s lyrical proficiency, addictive production and the generally consistent quality of the tracks, the Pathfinder rates “eternal sunshine” a 9.5/10. A standout in Grande’s already legendary catalog, it’s only going to get more enjoyable as time goes on.

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About the Contributors
Risa Cidoni, Features Editor
Pronouns: she/her Grade: 11 Years on staff: 3 What is your favorite piece of literature? "Where the Crawdads Sing." Who is your hero? My grandma. If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be? Green grapes.
Samir Shaik, Multimedia/Sports Editor
Pronouns: he/him Grade: 11 Years on staff: 3 What is your favorite piece of literature? "The Rainbow Fish." Who is your hero? My mom. If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be? Peaches.
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