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Ariana Grande’s ‘We Can’t Be Friends’ Lyrics Capture the Pain of Letting Go of An Ex

A new Ariana Grande era is upon us. Upon the release of her new album, Eternal Sunshine, the pop star also shared cinematic visuals for her second single, “We Can’t Be Friends (Wait for Your Love).” Paying tribute to the 2004 film that inspired it, the video shows Grande playing a character named Peaches who chooses to undergo a procedure to erase her unwanted memories. (Like how Jim Carrey’s Joel and Kate Winslet’s Clementine do in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.)

Directed by Christian Breslaur, who also helmed “Yes, And?”, the video shows Grande erasing the memories of an ex, played by Evan Peters. The video ultimately ends with her completing the procedure...and him doing the same. They pass each other with different partners, unaware they had ever known each other. (Grande and her ex-husband, Dalton Gomez, have both been linked to other people since their split in real life. Grande is notably dating Ethan Slater, while Gomez was seen kissing Maika Monroe in February.)

In an interview with Zane Lowe released yesterday, Grande discussed how this video sums up Eternal Sunshine, which is a concept album. When asked how the track fits into the rest of the project, Grande explained:

“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, which I love about that song. Because I think it can be applied to any kind of relationship, really, especially when you see the video. I think you’ll understand the importance of it. The video that we made for ‘We Can’t Be Friends’ really, to me, is the album in a video.”

As for the song itself, the lyrics reflect on the end of a relationship and the reality that she and her former partner cannot be friends or stay together because she cannot be her full self around him. (“I didn’t think you’d understand me / How could you ever even try? / I don’t wanna tiptoe, but I don’t wanna hide.”)

The lyrics could be a nod to her breakup from Gomez. A source spoke to Entertainment Tonight in July about why they didn’t work as a couple, touching on the two not really meshing well.

“Ariana and Dalton tried to make things work, but ultimately they were just not a good fit,” the source said.

A source told People that the physical long distance their relationship had also contributed, despite Grande’s earnest intentions throughout their love story. She was happy in Los Angeles for a couple of years,” they said. “She wanted to make a life there with Dalton. He is super focused on his career [as a real estate agent] and needs to live in Los Angeles. It’s definitely been an issue for them. Dalton’s career is demanding and he can’t leave Los Angeles often. So when [Grande] started filming Wicked in England, they were in for a long-distance marriage.”

When Gomez and Grande’s then-separation was initially announced last summer, a source told People that they “have been quietly and lovingly working on their friendship” since. Grande’s exploration of friendship after romance in these lyrics could reflect what she privately went through.

But, given the conceptual nature of the album, don’t expect every lyric to reflect Grande’s life with Gomez. The singer-songwriter also told Lowe about how freeing it was to write for this LP with that in mind.

“I think there's such a freedom within art in general because you really can pull from anywhere. You can pull from your truth, you can pull from a concept, you can pull from a film, from a story you're telling. From a story about a relationship that a friend told you. Art is really, it can come from anywhere,” she said. She described the album as “a lovely costume to wear.”

Listen to “We Can’t Be Friends” above and read the full lyrics below.

Verse 1
I didn’t think you’d understand me
How could you ever even try?
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

Chorus

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

Post-Chorus

Wait for your love
My love, I’ll wait for your love

Verse 2

Me and my truth, we sit in silence
Mm
Babygirl, it’s just me and you
’Cause I don’t wanna argue, but I don’t wanna bite
My tongue, yeah, I think I’d rather die
You got me misunderstood
But at least I look this good

Chorus

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

Post-Chorus

Wait for your love
My love, I’ll wait for your love
I’ll wait for your love
My love, I’ll wait for your love

Bridge

Know that you made me
I don’t like how you paint me, yet I’m still here hanging
Not what you made me
It’s somethin’ like a daydream
But I feel so seen in the night
So for now, it’s only me
And maybe that’s all I need

Chorus

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

Post-Chorus

Wait for your love
My love, I’ll wait for your love
I’ll wait for your love
My love, I’ll wait for your love

Outro

I’ll wait for your love
I’ll wait for your love
I’ll wait for your love
I’ll wait for your love
I’ll wait for your love

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