What's The Real Meaning Of We Can't Be Friends By Ariana Grande?

"We Can't Be Friends" serves as the second lead single for Ariana Grande's latest album "Eternal Sunshine," which finally dropped on March 8 after months of anticipation and build-up. The record marks the pop superstar's first album release since "Positions" came in 2020, and contains 13 tracks (17 in its "slightly deluxe" version), including the chart-topping hit song "Yes, And?". In a promotional video, Grande described the concept album as a collection of "heightened pieces of the same story, of the same experience." "Some of them are really vulnerable, [while] some of them are like playing the part that people kind of expect me to be sometimes and having fun with that," she said. "It's called 'Eternal Sunshine.'"

The title is a clear reference to Grande's favorite film of all time: the 2000 cult-classic "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" starring Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet. Grande told Zane Lowe of Apple Music that she's always been a massive Carrey fan. "I don't know if you know this, but my first screen name was JimCarreyFan42," she revealed. "So I was definitely very young." (Fun fact: she cried when she met Carrey for the first time.) Explaining the significance of the film to her latest album, Grande said, "I think that's why the film is so beloved. It's because so many people can relate to it, and I think it kind of fell into place that these songs had little tidbits of that theme." But what does her song, "We Can't Be Friends," really mean? Let's take a look.

'We Can't Be Friends' can be interpreted in many ways

On the surface, "We Can't Be Friends" is a post-breakup song told from Ariana Grande's perspective that perhaps references her split from her ex-husband Dalton Gomez. It navigates the complexities of failed relationships and begins with Grande singing about being misunderstood by her significant other but refusing to hide and tiptoe around him. However, she expresses her desire to stay friends with her ex despite it being a tricky situation while waiting for him to love her again. "We can't be friends / But I'd like to just pretend / You cling to your papers and pens / Wait until you like me again," Grande sings in the chorus. "Wait for your love / My love, I'll wait for your love."

That's just one interpretation. On closer inspection, "We Can't Be Friends" is not really about the struggles of dealing with a breakup but rather Grande's complicated relationship with her fans and the media (The giveaway? "Papers and pens.") This particularly theory — which has been popular among Arianators on Reddit  — is supported in the bridge, in which Grande sings, "Know that you made me / I don't like how you paint me / yet I'm still here hanging." She also sings in the second verse, "Me and my truth, we sit in silence / Babygirl, it's just me and you / 'Cause I don't wanna argue, but I don't wanna bite ... You got me misunderstood / But at least I look this good."

What Ariana Grande has said about 'We Can't Be Friends'

The music video for Ariana Grande's "We Can't Be Friends" was released on the same day that her album "Eternal Sunshine" dropped. It stars Grande with Evan Peters as her love interest as she strives to move on from their relationship by having her memories of him erased. The video — which has garnered tens of millions of views on YouTube — recreates scenes from "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," in which Clementine (Kate Winslet) undergoes a medical procedure to remove unwanted memories of her ex-boyfriend Joel (Jim Carrey) after their breakup. Grande's MV was directed by Christian Breslauer, who also worked with the singer on the music video for her other lead single "Yes, and?"

Speaking to Apple Music's Zane Lowe, Grande explained how "We Can't Be Friends" fits into the narrative of her latest album, "Eternal Sunshine." "It fits the concept, I think in a different way for me than it does for most of my friends and most of my family, and they interpret it differently," she said. That ambiguity is exactly what she loves most about the song, explains Grande. "Because I think it can be applied to any kind of relationship, really, especially when you see the video," she said. "I think you'll understand the importance of it." Adding, "The video that we made for 'We Can't Be Friends' really, to me, is the album in a video."