Ariana Grande 2024
Photo: Katia Temkin / Republic Records

Ariana Grande’s ‘Eternal Sunshine’ Is Her Most Cohesive Work

Ariana Grande has come into her own by embracing the parts of her creativity that resonate most with her ardent fanbase and being true to herself.

Eternal Sunshine (Slightly Deluxe)
Ariana Grande
8 March 2024

“I’m so done with caring what you think, no I won’t hide,” proclaims Ariana Grande on the lead single to her seventh studio album, Eternal Sunshine. Such a sentiment might not seem revolutionary in the grand scheme of her work, considering her history of female power anthems like “Dangerous Woman”, “No Tears Left to Cry”, or “Thank U, Next”. But something about this LP sets itself apart from its predecessors—perhaps in truly no longer caring what others think, Grande has produced some of her best work to date.

After all, the singer made her name in music as something of a baby Mariah Carey with her R&B-focused debut studio effort Yours Truly over a decade ago. But at that time, Grande was still something of a teen idol under contract with Nickelodeon, a fanbase that followed her on her second album, My Everything. Its follow-up, Dangerous Woman, was a strong and true attempt at shedding her teen image and maturing into adult R&B and dance-pop, but it was the beginning of a genre power struggle. Grande is skilled at both pop and R&B but, until now, has never been able to find the proper bridge between the two.

Case in point: 2018’s Sweetener tried its best to be a pop-R&B crossover, but the media circus surrounding her short-lived relationship with actor Pete Davidson led to another primarily R&B-focused LP, Thank U, Next, just months later. 2020’s Positions also leaned heavily into R&B in a way that didn’t target all her strengths as a performer.

So when Ariana Grande released “Yes, And?” as the lead single from Eternal Sunshine this January—a song whose music video takes inspiration from the Paula Abdul classic “Cold Hearted”—it signaled a much-needed return to dance-pop and, hopefully, a new attempt at a blend with her signature R&B. Grande has finally found that bridge.

Eternal Sunshine tells a straightforward narrative throughout its track listing, a quality not found in Ariana Grande’s previous work. Indeed, from the opening lines of “Bye” right through the chorus of “Ordinary Things”, the singer is letting go of expectations from all sources, whether those of a romantic partner or those she places on herself.

Like any pop effort, the lyricism concerns itself primarily with romance, but between the bed sheets, emotions and vulnerability signal significant artistic growth. “I showed you all my demons, all my lies / Yet you played me like Atari,” she declares on the title track. “Me and my truth, we sit in silence / Baby girl, it’s just me and you,” confesses Grande in “We Can’t Be Friends”. The songwriting, along with astute production from Max Martin, allows for a record that is uniquely and authentically Ariana Grande in a way that her other studio albums simply are not.

Gone is the Ariana Grande, who once named a track after an ill-fated engagement to a Saturday Night Live star. In her place is an artist who has come into her own by embracing the parts of her creativity that resonate most with her ardent fanbase. “This is a true story about all the lies,” she sings. I’ll play whatever part you need me to.” But in fact, she’s only playing herself, and that’s the only part any artist needs to play.

RATING 8 / 10