The Decaturian is Millikin's student-run newspaper. The opinions reflected may not be those of Millikin as an institution.

The Decaturian

The Decaturian is Millikin's student-run newspaper. The opinions reflected may not be those of Millikin as an institution.

The Decaturian

The Decaturian is Millikin's student-run newspaper. The opinions reflected may not be those of Millikin as an institution.

The Decaturian

Ariana Grande’s “eternal sunshine” Fails to Leave a Spotless Impression

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I’ve been a pretty average Ariana Grande fan ever since her Nickelodeon days.

Her hits have never been anything I’ve actively disliked and I’ve even come to enjoy some of her later, more introspective work on albums like “Sweetener” and “thank u, next.” That being said, I can’t just sit here and act like 2020’s “Positions” wasn’t criminally underwhelming.

There were some definite highlights, but as an album it felt as lackluster and one-note as her debut, maybe even more so. Coming into this new album however, I tried to maintain an open mind. Nearly 4 years after her last record, I was intrigued in where she might take her sound this time.

I enjoyed the lead single “yes, and?” on first listen. But the more I’ve sat with it, the more I’ve grown cold toward it. I can still appreciate the inspiring message conveyed through a more dancehall-type beat. But overall, Grande feels almost robotic at times and especially in context with the rest of this record, it’s really the odd one out.

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“We can’t be friends (wait for your love)” also felt like an unusual single choice to me with just how meandering and uninspired it sounds. I don’t know what I’m not seeing with this song but after the handful of times I’ve listened to it so far, it just continues to do absolutely nothing for me.

The radio is already bombarded with countless of these triumphant pop-ballad end-of-the-relationship type songs as it is, and this one just doesn’t seem to do anything different. All I’m hoping for now is that “bye” will see a single release sometime soon as it is easily my favorite track on the entire record. This is classic Grande through-and-through. Some great self-aware lyrics, a booming synth beat and her one-of-a-kind vocal melodies, this song has hit written all over it.

After the absolute smash that is “bye,” sadly the album tends to dip down in quality for me. “don’t wanna break up again” and the title track “eternal sunshine” fail to spark much interest with some rather cringy lyrics and lackluster production. Luckily, “supernatural” and “true story” gain more momentum with some catchier hooks. And say what you will, but “the boy is mine” might have the best beat on the record along with some great energy from Grande throughout.

Unfortunately, the latter half of this album is where it’s most uneven. I already touched on the two lead singles, but a few of the other tracks near the end just feel so lifeless and boring I can hardly remember what they sound like. I do quite enjoy the closing moment “ordinary things” but with the past few tracks being such a slog it almost feels unearned, though I do like her grandmother’s inclusion, definitely a cute bookend.

If I could sum up what I think about “eternal sunshine” in one word it would be rushed. You might be thinking, it took her almost 4 years to release this. How could it have been rushed? You’re right, that is a long time but it’s not like she was working on it the whole time. She’s a busy woman, and I think there’s been a lot of pressure from fans and her record company alike to put out a new album for years now. This record feels more like a record for the masses than for her. Even when this record tries to be more personal or forward-thinking, there are way more moments that are just phoned-in, safe and stale pop tropes.

Take the album’s namesake, Michel Gondry’s “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” for example. That movie is still greatly beloved and respected to this day as a groundbreaking and ahead-of-the-curve masterclass in storytelling and film as a whole. It didn’t sacrifice anything to be more widely-appealing or a big box office smash and it’s still remembered for how great it was. You could say Grande’s “Sweetener,” “thank u, next” and even “Dangerous Woman” to an extent have all been dearly beloved albums that have stuck with culture for many years now. I believe these records are as appreciated and as praised as they are because of how much they meant to her fans, sure, but even more so to Grande herself. I don’t think “eternal sunshine” will ever reach that same level.

 

My rating: 6.4/10

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Eli Bland, Arts Editor

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