It was almost exactly ten years ago that Beyonce dramatically disrupted conventional music release strategies for her self-titled fifth album — forgoing any sort of release announcement, press tour or advance singles, and simply dropping the entire collection (alongside a dozen music videos) with zero advance warning. Her surprise-album-drop strategy inspired plenty of imitators in the years that followed, but since then, it’s safe to say that the pendulum has swung back hard in the other direction, and few pop stars have embraced the maximalist, slow-building, Easter-egg-laden tease to new music more deftly than Ariana Grande, who released a trailer for her upcoming music video, “Yes, And?” on Jan. 11.
Following a series of cryptic Instagram messages and carefully dropped hints, the star plans to release her first solo video in three years tomorrow. “Yes, And?” will be the first single from her seventh album, which she appears to have (sorta) indicated might be titled Eternal Sunshine, following some rather ingenious (or perhaps alarming) sleuthing from her fanbase.
First things first: in the teaser, a crowd of sour-looking music critics are summoned to an office building for a sneak preview of the album (still titled “AG7” in the video), kvetching among themselves and gossiping about some unnamed scandal of Grande’s. An exasperated older British gentleman complains about the singer “starting her own artisanal hummus line,” while another complains, “who cares if she’s happy? I don’t want happy, I want Ari.” (For what it’s worth, music critics have generally been fans of Grande’s recent work, though that certainly has never precluded other critically-beloved pop stars from adopting an adversarial relationship with their evaluators.)
But most importantly, apparently, the opening shot of the teaser shows a set of geographic coordinates — 41.0359° N – 71.9545° W — which designate Montauk, New York. Some of the the star’s fans quickly got out their red string and noted that the tiny Long Island community was a key location in Michel Gondry’s 2004 film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which struck them as significant in light of Grande’s previously expressed love of Jim Carrey (she once guest-starred on Carrey's Showtime series Kidding, with Gondry behind the camera), not to mention the fact that her new boyfriend — actor and Wicked co-star Ethan Slater, about whom the video’s critics were presumably gossiping — bears the initials “E.S.” Therefore, fans began to speculate that the new album will be titled Eternal Sunshine. QED. Miraculously, they appear to have been correct. At least, assuming that Grande affixing a "heart" emoji to a post explaining the theory counts as confirmation. (See? We told you Grande is good at this sort of thing.)
In any case, Grande’s newest single is out tomorrow. Her last album, 2020’s Positions, was her fifth to debut at the top of the Billboard album chart, with the title track also topping the singles chart as well. She has notched two No. 1 singles since then, thanks to collabs with the Weeknd on remixes for “Die for You” and “Save Your Tears.” This year will also see Grande take on her first major film role, as the good witch Glinda in the film adaptation of Broadway smash Wicked. Part one of the two-part film is due in theaters in November.