Homeentertainment newsAriana Grande's Eternal Sunshine review, an insightful post-divorce album, is nearly ideal

Ariana Grande’s Eternal Sunshine review, an insightful post-divorce album, is nearly ideal

By the time we reached 2020, Ariana Grande was virtually canonized as a pop deity, a fact met with universal agreement. Her 2017 Manchester performance tragically ended with the loss of 22 fans to a terrorist act, earning Grande widespread acclaim for organizing the One Love Manchester charity event merely a fortnight later.

Her engagement to comedian Pete Davidson ended abruptly the following year as a result of her ex-lover and rapper Mac Miller’s tragic accidental drug overdose. Her musical expression transitioned from catchy R&B tunes hinting at a rebellious post-Nickelodeon era towards a more sophisticated approach to processing her sorrows, with Grande actively contributing to the songwriting: her 2018 release, Sweetener, spoke volumes of her journey towards survival.

Merely five months down the line, Thank U, Next emerged as a lighthearted embrace of self-acceptance and joy, crafted in the weeks following Grande’s desire to escape the burdensome formalities of pop music production, aiming to communicate directly with her audience and release music with a spontaneity akin to that of her male rap counterparts.

Positions, a year later, delicately explored the balance between healing and moving forward, marking a slight decline in quality but still shining with the intimate and urgent touch of Grande’s refreshed artistic vision. Her gradual comeback saw a new chapter when she tied the knot in 2021. However, just two years down the line, their union had come to an end.

Despite there being no concrete evidence, rampant rumors of Grande’s supposed unfaithfulness and her involvement with a co-star from the yet-to-be-released Wicked movie adaptation—who was separated but not divorced—sparked outrage.

This was despite assurances from “a source” to People magazine that there was no romantic entanglement between her and either man during their respective previous relationships. Clips purporting to be “proof” of Grande’s history with infidelity spread like wildfire across social platforms.

As 2023 drew to a close, the usually media-shy singer broke her silence with an Instagram post expressing how deeply misunderstood she feels by those who don’t truly know her yet insist on stitching together rumors to paint their desired narrative of her life.

In January, she released her comeback single, Yes, and? Which directly addressed her critics with the line, “Your business is yours and mine is mine. Why do you care so much whose dick I ride?”. While the song aimed to draw unwelcome attention, it inadvertently shone a spotlight on the controversies for those previously in the dark about them.

It turns out, that a significant number did indeed care; the announcement resulted in a loss of 360,000 Instagram followers for Grande. This event underlines the capricious nature of public support and the intrusive curiosity fueled by social media—a sad twist to Grande’s display of vulnerability that was met with everything but empathy.

Luckily, public outrage hasn’t suppressed her openness on her lavish, lively seventh record, which transitions from introspection to hints of betrayal by her former lover, indicating she might have been saving her best for Eternal Sunshine.

The album is rich in tantalizing provocations: “I’ll take on any role you wish for me,” she offers to those tarnishing her image on True Story, “and I’ll excel in it too”; “You’ve misunderstood me, but at least I look this stunning,” she asserts on We Can’t Be Friends (Wait for Your Love).

The first track, with its heavy bass and twitching vocals, brings to mind Jai Paul reimagining Justin Timberlake’s iconic portrayal of betrayal in Cry Me a River, while the second resonates with the trembling synths and pixelated details reminiscent of Robyn’s saga of relationship disruption in Call Your Girlfriend, though it strikes a conspicuously retro chord.

Grande playfully engages with notions of being a victim or villain, well aware that she lacks control over these perceptions. However, her primary focus lies in the volatility of human relationships—a theme she dives into right from the album’s start, questioning the signs of a healthy partnership.

This aspect of adulthood, with its mix of agony and joy, receives a treatment from Grande that mirrors Adele’s candid exploration in her divorce-themed album, “30.” The main song hints at the film by Michel Gondry, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” touching on the challenge of letting go; in “I Wish I Hated You,” she expresses a desire for clear-cut feelings, depicted as a twinkling ballerina within a pink velvet container. Grande acknowledges that life involves picking up the pieces and pushing forward.

 In contrast to the cautiousness and doubt of “positions,” she embraces decisiveness and gut feelings here, even when it leads to destruction. In “The Boy Is Mine,” she adopts a confident demeanor akin to Aaliyah’s, taking responsibility for the pain she’s caused, yet admits she can’t deny what her heart wants, emphasized by six exclamation points in the official lyrics. Her songwriting is straightforward and impactful, which makes the unnecessary explanation of astrology in “Saturn Returns Interlude,” a track about personal growth, feel even more out of place.

In contrast to her contemporaries, Grande hasn’t embraced complete transformations. Her work post-2020 showcases a commitment to polishing the bond that exists among the glamour of Hollywood, timeless R&B, and the sharp bursts characteristic of trap music.

Max Martin and Ilya Salmanzadeh are Grande’s main collaborators on the album “Eternal Sunshine,” leaving behind Victoria Monét, who has pursued a solo career. This album presents a richer experience than the airy, delicate textures of “Positions.”. It kicks off with “Bye,” a track that misleadingly starts the album on a high note with its opulent orchestral-disco vibe, celebrating our protagonist’s liberation.

However, the rest of Grande’s work adopts a more laid-back, nocturnal approach, which is surprising. Through her effortlessly smooth singing, she navigates the heavy heartache associated with deceit or being overwhelming for someone. This is depicted in “Don’t Wanna Break Up Again,” where she mentions drowning her tears with the TV’s volume, the severity of the emotions passing by lightly due to her vocal prowess.

Perhaps it is for the best to leave it as such; in any case, it does not cast a shadow over the hopeful spirit of the final two tracks, which revel in the flawed and simple nature of budding romance. Grande has trodden this path before, with the eccentric, minor-key vocal patterns and the unusual, lax strumming of Imperfect for You revealing her awareness of hope’s fragility. Love is prone to error. Against what some admirers may believe, the heart does not invariably act with ethical integrity. Idolizing Grande benefits nobody, while the serene and grown-up Eternal Sunshine gently lowers her back to reality.

Penned after the Melbourne artist suffered the overwhelming losses of both her mother and her newborn son, Sleepless emerges as a profoundly clear 13-minute masterpiece on mourning. The piece has a wave of soaring, jovial electronics that build until they seem ready to take flight, which makes me think of Jenny Hval and Let’s Eat Grandma.

Abubakar is a writer and digital marketing expert. Who has founded multiple blogs and successful businesses in the fields of digital marketing, software development. A full-service digital media agency that partners with clients to boost their business outcomes.

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