Every detail and reference you might have missed on Ariana Grande's new album 'Eternal Sunshine'

ariana grande eternal sunshine album cover
Ariana Grande released "Eternal Sunshine" on March 8, 2024.Katia Temkin/Republic Records
  • Ariana Grande's new album "Eternal Sunshine" is full of hidden details and real-life references.

  • Several lyrics may be nods to her divorce from Dalton Gomez and new boyfriend Ethan Slater.

  • The lyrics also include subtle callbacks to past songs in Grande's discography.

From name-dropping exes in her songs to addressing criticism about her sex life, Ariana Grande has earned a reputation for delivering brutally honest pop.

Although her seventh album, "Eternal Sunshine," is less explicit than some of her previous work, the tracklist is full of hidden winks and apparent references to her real life.

Several lyrics also refer back to Grande's previous albums, creating a narrative arc in her discography.

Business Insider created a guide to all the details you may have missed. Keep reading to see our track-by-track breakdown.

"Intro (End of the World)" was one of the first songs Grande wrote for "Eternal Sunshine."

ariana grande eternal sunshine album cover
"Intro (End of the World)" is the opening track of "Eternal Sunshine."Katia Temkin/Republic Records

Grande began work on her seventh album last summer. When the SAG-AFTRA strike interrupted the filming schedule for "Wicked," she returned to New York City and spent a week in the studio with producer Max Martin.

"When I was writing, it was with no intention for the world to hear it. I was just kind of like, 'Let's just go. Let's see what comes out,'" Grande told Zach Sang.

"Intro (End of the World)" was the second song Grande wrote for the album, following the title track, so we can assume the opener is a candid snapshot of what Grande was going through at the time.

The lyrics introduce two love interests: Grande's then-partner, who's a source of uncertainty, and a different man, who's a source of inspiration. Based on what the public knows, these are likely her ex-husband Dalton Gomez and her boyfriend Ethan Slater, respectively.

Grande ends the song by wondering who would stick by her side if "the sun refused to shine," a sly reference to the album's title.

"Bye" is rooted in Grande's real life and features a nod to her lifelong friend, Courtney Chipolone.

ariana grande eternal sunshine thank u next
Courtney Chipolone, far right, appeared in the "Thank U, Next" music video.Katia Temkin; Ariana Grande/YouTube

During a second interview with Zach Sang for Amazon Music, Grande said "Bye" was the most difficult song on the album to write.

"It's a very simple and silly lyric, but it was hard for the reason that I desperately didn't want it to sound like a 'fuck you,'" she said. "I wanted it to sound like, 'I need to leave, so bye.' I wanted it to be rooted in self-awareness."

Its placement after the intro is very intentional. Grande hoped the question that opens the album ("How do I know if I'm in the right relationship?") would come across as "taking accountability" for being with the wrong person.

"Bye" shows her transforming that instinct into action and removing herself from the situation — presumably her marriage.

Although Grande hasn't named any muses for her new music, "Bye" is almost certainly about Gomez, as the song is rooted in autobiographical details.

Most obviously, Grande name-drops a lifelong friend in the pre-chorus: "So I grab my stuff, Courtney just pulled up in the driveway."

Courtney Chipolone is an established character in the Grande Cinematic Universe. She appears in both the "Thank U, Next" and "7 Rings" music videos, in addition to regular cameos on Grande's Instagram page.

Chipolone confirmed on Instagram that she is the Courtney in question; she shared a screenshotted text from Grande asking permission to use her name in a song.

Grande also shared with Sang that her mother, Joan Grande, was a key inspiration for "Bye" — both the song and the breakup that preceded it.

Grande explained that her parents' divorce affected her as a child, causing her to chase the mythic "happily ever after" that she didn't find in her own home. She described this urge as "self-abandon."

"My mom is a fierce example of not doing that," Grande said. "A massive thing that I learned in my year of Saturn Return is that my fears of replicating a certain cycle was actually the opposite. I was like, 'Oh wow. I want to be so much more like her than I am.' I want to have the strength to say 'bye,' kindly, when something isn't fucking right."

"Don't Wanna Break Up Again" has a connection to "Ghostin."

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"Thank U, Next" was released in 2019.Republic Records

Grande told Sang that "Don't Wanna Break Up Again" is meant to land like a "hangover" after the life-changing decision she made in "Bye."

"You didn't even try / When you finally did, it was at the wrong time," she sings in the second verse.

This lyric is a direct callback to "Bye," in which Grande sings, "At least, I know how hard we tried, both you and me / Didn't we? Didn't we?" The two-song sequence illustrates the conflict and duality of breaking up: closure and regret; gratitude and bitterness.

"Don't Wanna Break Up Again" also contains a clear parallel with "Ghostin," the first song Grande wrote for "Thank U, Next" in 2019.

"I fall asleep crying / You turn up the TV / You don't wanna hear me / One more sleepless night," Grande sings to open the former.

The latter opens with a similar scene of nighttime grief: "I know you hear me when I cry / I try to hold it in at night / While you're sleeping next to me."

This parallel serves to underscore Grande's pattern of heartbreak, the very premise of "Don't Wanna Break Up Again."

"Saturn Returns Interlude" includes a callback to "R.E.M."

eternal sunshine sweetener
"Sweetener" was released in 2018.Republic Records

Saturn Return is an astrological phenomenon, which occurs when the planet returns to the sign it occupied at your birth.

Because Saturn takes about 29 years to orbit the sun, a person's first return is seen as a celestial coming-of-age. Priorities come into clearer focus. Grande herself described it as a time for "course correction."

This interlude features the voice of Diana Garland, a retired YouTube astrologer who didn't know the album was coming out. The video in question was sent to Grande by Will Loftis, her "Yes, And?" choreographer, whom she met on the set of "Wicked."

In the song, Garland explains the significance of Saturn Return: "If we've just been sort of relying on our cleverness or relying — you know, just kind of floating along, Saturn comes along and hits you over the head and says, 'Wake up!'"

"Saturn Returns Interlude " is track four on "Eternal Sunshine," the same placement as "R.E.M" on Grande's "Sweetener."

The fan-favorite song, released nearly six years ago, is about wanting to float along — about feeling content with a dreamy, surreal sort of love. In the chorus of "R.E.M," Grande repeatedly sings, "I don't wanna wake up."

"Eternal Sunshine" is directly tied to the film's tragic love story.

ariana grande eternal sunshine of the spotless mind
"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" premiered in 2004.Ariana Grande/YouTube; Focus Features

Grande described "Eternal Sunshine" as a "concept album" that was partially inspired by "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," a 2004 sci-fi drama directed by Michel Gondry.

Grande is a noted fan of Jim Carrey, who plays the protagonist, Joel. The film follows Joel as he goes through a medical process to erase all memories of his ex-girlfriend Clementine, played by Kate Winslet.

Grande mimics this process in the music video for "We Can't Be Friends (Wait for Your Love)," in which she plays a character called Peaches. But in terms of lyrics, the album's title track is most closely related to the movie.

"So I try to wipe my mind / Just so I feel less insane / Rather feel painless," Grande sings in the second verse, a direct reference to the movie's premise.

Another lyric, "Get me out of this loop," is probably a nod to the movie's finale, when Joel and Clementine re-meet after having their memories erased. They decide to try dating again, despite knowing they already did — and would eventually grow to resent each other.

The final scene shows the same clip of Joel and Clementine running through snow, repeating over and over again. The glitchy loop implies a tragic fate for the lovers, who can't break free from their romantic impulses.

Grande has been open about her own personal patterns. In "Positions," the lead single of her 2020 album of the same name, she sings, "Heaven sent you to me / I'm just hoping I don't repeat history."

Another possible nod to "Positions" appears in the chorus: "I showed you all my demons, all my lies / Yet you played me like Atari," Grande sings, a reference to the company that made classic games like Tetris, Space Invaders, and more. The lyric is followed by a vintage video game sound effect.

In "Six Thirty," placed at track six on "Positions," Grande begs for reassurance from her then-partner: "What you gonna do when I'm bored / And I wanna play video games at 2 a.m.? / What if I need a friend? Will you ride 'til the end?"

The Atari lyric also ties back into the "Eternal Sunshine" theme: memory erasure is similar to restarting a video game; the illusion of a fresh start.

Grande said "Supernatural" is the "horniest" song on the album, reminiscent of its predecessor "Positions."

ariana grande eternal sunshine positions
"Positions" was released in 2020.Katia Temkin; Ariana Grande/YouTube

"Supernatural" deals with a common theme in Grande's discography: sheer lust.

"I want you to come claim it, I do / What are you waiting for?" she sings in the pre-chorus, echoing a similar lyric in the "Positions" highlight "Nasty" ("Don't wanna wait on it / Tonight, I wanna get nasty / What you waiting for?").

In the second verse, Grande compares herself to the moon and her lover to the stars — as with "Nasty," in which she sings, "You're like a whole constellation."

Another lyric in the chorus, "It's taking over me, don't wanna fight the fall," recalls the "Positions" track "Safety Net" ("Don't know if I should fight or fly / But I don't mind / Tripping, falling, with no safety net").

On the album's "Slightly Deluxe" extended edition, "Supernatural" is remixed with vocals from Troye Sivan.

Sivan previously appeared in the "Thank U, Next" music video. He also collaborated with Grande on his 2018 single "Dance to This," which deals with a similar theme of impatience and obsession while falling in love ("Say we'll go slow, but we never do / Premonition / See me spending every night with you").

"True Story" plays a similar role to "Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I'm Bored."

ariana grande eternal sunshine break up with your girlfriend I'm bored
"Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I'm Bored" was released as a single from "Thank U, Next."Republic Records; Ariana Grande/YouTube

"True Story" is exactly the opposite of what its title implies. The song is a critique of the celebrity rumor mill, a satirical embrace of Grande's heartbreaker reputation, which was fueled by her relationship with Slater. (His estranged wife told Page Six that Grande is "not a girl's girl.")

"I'll play the villain if you need me to / I know how this goes, yeah," she sings in the first verse. "I'll be the one you pay to see play the scene / Roll the cameras, please."

Back in 2019, in the wake of her split from Pete Davidson, Grande stepped into a similar role. She replaced a vulnerable song on "Thank U, Next" with "Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I'm Bored" as a reaction to criticism she saw online about her love life.

"I think it's funny," Grande tweeted at the time. "I liked the idea of ending a more honest n vulnerable project and with like a punchline."

In "True Story," Grande also includes a wink to "Fantasize," a leaked demo that went viral on TikTok last year ("You fantasized 'bout you and I").

According to Grande, "Fantasize" was originally written as "a parody of a '90s girl group vibe" for a Seth MacFarlane TV show, but was ultimately scrapped.

"The Boy Is Mine" is Grande's take on a '90s hit with the same name.

ariana grande yes and brandy the boy is mine
"The Boy Is Mine" by Brandy and Monica was released as a single in 1998.Katia Temkin; Brandy/YouTube

Grande told Zane Lowe that she has always wanted to "reimagine" Brandy and Monica's R&B single "The Boy Is Mine." She decided to do it for "Eternal Sunshine" when she saw her fans react positively to "Fantasize."

"They love it so much," she said of the leaked demo. "I kind of was like, 'This is a very bad idea I think.' But there is a large group of my fans that really, they do love a bad girl anthem. And this is kind of, I think, an elevated version of that."

The song is preceded by "True Story," which warns the listener not to take Grande's words too seriously; in "The Boy Is Mine," she's playing a role that toys with the public's perception of her love life.

"My girls, they always come through in a sticky situation / Say, 'It's fine' / Happens all the time," she sings in the second verse.

This may be a nod to "7 Rings," which Grande once described as a "friendship anthem," or perhaps "Thank U, Next" ("Spend more time with my friends / I ain't worried 'bout nothing").

"Yes, And?" references the controversy surrounding Grande's love life.

ariana grande yes and music video
"Yes, And?" was released as the lead single from "Eternal Sunshine."Ariana Grande/YouTube

Before its release, Grande's mom liked a post on X that reads, "'Yes, And?' is the new 'Thank U, Next.'"

Indeed, "Thank U, Next" set the stage for Grande to absorb gossip into her songwriting ("Say I've loved and I've lost / But that's not what I see," "I know they say I move on too fast").

The bridge of "Yes, And?" is similarly direct, addressing critics of Grande's appearance and her sex life: "Don't comment on my body, do not reply / Your business is yours and mine is mine / Why do you care so much whose **** I ride?"

Asked why she chose to release "Yes, And?" as the album's lead single, Grande said the song is able to "live on its own" while setting an expectation for empathy.

"Everyone has shit going on that you don't know about," she told Sang. "And you know that, too. So just, shh."

"We Can't Be Friends (Wait for Your Love)" has many possible interpretations.

ariana grande we can't be friends (wait for your love) music video
"We Can't Be Friends" was released as the second single from "Eternal Sunshine."Ariana Grande/YouTube

"We Can't Be Friends (Wait for Your Love)" could be interpreted as an anthem about unrequited love, with Grande yearning to be "seen" by her partner. (Asked about her inspiration, Grande demurred. "It can be whoever you want it to be about.")

It could also be interpreted as a song about fame, rumors, and feeling misunderstood by fans — especially since it follows "Yes, And?" in the tracklist.

"I don't wanna tiptoe, but I don't wanna hide / But I don't wanna feed this monstrous fire / Just wanna let this story die / And I'll be alright," she sings in the first verse, possibly alluding to Slater and her refusal to comment publicly on their relationship.

Back in December, Grande shared on Instagram that she felt "so deeply misunderstood by people who don't know me, who piece whispers together and make what they want out of me and their assumptions of my life." She also made a point to thank her loved ones for helping her feel "fiercely protected."

The lyric "I'll be alright" could be a gesture to Grande's fan-favorite song "Be Alright," the third track on "Dangerous Woman," which preaches optimism in dark times.

"Daylight is so close / So don't you worry 'bout a thing," she sings in the 2016 single.

Similarly, in this album's closing track "Ordinary Things," Grande's grandmother says that watching her husband come home was "like seeing daylight."

Grande said "I Wish I Hated You" is an "important piece of the puzzle," though she'll likely never perform it.

ariana grande we can't be friends wait for your love music video
"I Wish I Hated You" was cowritten by Ariana Grande and Ilya Salmanzadeh.Ariana Grande/YouTube

The pre-chorus of "I Wish I Hated You" includes a callback to "Eternal Sunshine" and the overarching theme of the album: "I rearrange my memories / I try to rewrite our life."

In the chorus, however, Grande grapples with the reality of her breakup — the challenge of holding both gratitude and grief.

"I'm happy to acknowledge the goodness, I really am," Grande told Sang. "I don't need to pretend that you're a monster to make peace with this ending."

"Grieving would be so much easier if we hated a person," she continued. "It's like, 'Good riddance.' But no. Capturing the complexity of like, 'What happens if I don't?' is imperative."

"Imperfect for You" was the final song written for the album. It's also Grande's favorite.

ariana grande imperfect for you saturday night live
Ariana Grande performed "Imperfect for You" on "Saturday Night Live."Will Heath/NBC via Getty Images

Grande described "Imperfect for You" as her favorite kind of music: "trippy, rubber-soul vibes."

The song begins with an invitation: "My boy, come take my hand / Throw your guitar and your clothes in the back seat."

Many fans believe this lyric points to Slater, who is a musician and Broadway star. He's been known to play guitar onstage and share videos of original guitar compositions.

Other lyrics seem to reference the backlash to their relationship, which made headlines before either person was officially divorced ("My love, they don't understand," "How could we know that this was a happy disaster? / I'm glad we crashed and we burned").

"In this day and age, we do a lot of boiling things down to a 10-second TikTok or a headline or a little cherry-picked quote from something," Grande told Sang. "We do a lot of stripping of humanness and erasure of context. And I think that even a simply lyric like 'happy disaster' is making space for all of that to exist within one song and one idea and one thought. Every moment of our lives contains multitudes."

In the second verse, Grande also invites her muse to "leave our baggage and wine at the table."

Grande previously described herself as "a girl with a whole lot of baggage" in "Ghostin." The word also appears throughout "Positions," in both "Love Language" ("Left my baggage at the door, I'll claim you mine") and "POV" ("All my baggage fading safely").

"Ordinary Things" was always meant to be the album's final song.

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Ariana Grande and her grandma Marjorie Grande at the 2016 AMAs.Kevin Mazur/AMA2016/WireImage

"I knew 'Ordinary Things' was the end of the album," Grande told Lowe. "But I wonder, how I can put that button on it and have it land emotionally the way that I feel it can? And how can I answer the question?"

Grande was referring to the question that she poses in the intro track, the album's first set of lyrics: "How can I tell if I'm in the right relationship? Aren't you really supposed to know that shit?"

Grande found the answer in the middle of a 40-minute voice recording of her grandmother, Marjorie Grande, whom she calls "Nonna."

"I always record my Nonna when I'm with her because you never know what she's gonna say and she's the most hilarious person in the world," Grande explained. "I had this 30-minute voice note of her and her friend Shirley talking. And it was just right smack in the middle of it. And I said, 'Oh my god, that's the answer.'"

The audio clip includes Nonna talking about her late husband, Grande's grandfather, and how she would feel when he used to come home: "It was like God almighty arrived," she says.

She also advises her granddaughter to "get out" if she doesn't feel comfortable kissing her partner goodnight.

Nonna's advice is reflected in Grande's lyrics; the song is an ode to a partner who makes everything exciting and beautiful, no matter how "ordinary" the activity is.

"You hit like my biggest fan when I hear what the critiques say" is likely a callback to "Yes, And?" — while "I don't need no diamonds, just your time" is 180 from Grande's mindset in her smash hit "7 Rings," a celebration of material wealth in the wake of heartbreak ("Lashes and diamonds, ATM machines / Buy myself all of my favorite things").

Grande and Nonna are both credited as lyricists, while Grande is also credited as a coproducer alongside Martin, Luka Kloser, and Nick Lee.

In an interview with Business Insider, Lee said the song "immediately felt special."

"Having her grandma on the song obviously added layers of meaning," he said. "We heard from Max Martin that she really felt a certain way about this one."

Read the original article on Business Insider