Ariana Grande’s Big Week Debuting Atop the Hot 100 & Billboard 200: How’d She Do It?

March has ended up a much more crowded pop month in 2024 than it has the past few years, with new albums delivered or expected from big names like Justin Timberlake, Kacey Musgraves, Shakira, Future x Metro Boomin and Beyoncé. But up first among the A-listers was Ariana Grande, and her first-week performance should set the star standard for the rest of the month, if not even longer.



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Grande debuts atop the Billboard 200 this week with her recently released seventh album Eternal Sunshine, moving 227,000 units in the set’s first week of availability — easily outshining the 149,000 first-week units previously moved by Ye & Ty Dolla $ign’s Vultures 1, 2024’s prior high-water mark. Meanwhile, the set’s new single “We Can’t Be Friends (Wait for Your Love)” also debuts atop the Hot 100, making for the album’s second No. 1, following the fast-starting, quickly receding “Yes, And?”

How should Ariana feel about her big debut week? And will “We Can’t Be Friends” have better chart endurance than its predecessor? Billboard staffers answer these questions and more below.

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1. Ariana Grande debuts atop the Billboard 200 with 227,000 units moved — up about 30% from the 174,000 Positions bowed with in 2020, though still down from the 360,000 Thank U, Next debuted with the year before. On a scale from 1-10, how excited do you think Grande should be with that entrance?

Katie Atkinson: 10. Any time a veteran artist builds on their last release – in this case, selling even more than she did with her most recent Billboard 200 No. 1 album – it’s cause for celebration. Her fanbase clearly missed her and didn’t go anywhere, and in fact grew in numbers this time around. So she didn’t match her Thank U, Next numbers… yes, and? This is excellent news for Ari all around.

Kyle Denis: 9. Eternal Sunshine pulled first-week numbers that are comparable to that of the two albums she released when she was arguably at a popularity peak in terms of her social media presence and general media coverage. Furthermore, Eternal Sunshine arrived on the back of considerable controversy regarding Grande’s personal life, as well as a lead single that garnered fairly lukewarm reception. Despite those obstacles, Grande pulled off the year’s best sales week yet with an album on which she wrote nearly every song by herself. That’s got to feel pretty amazing – especially for an artist who has spoken at length about how much Eternal Sunshine feels like a new chapter in her life and career. 

Lyndsey Havens: 10. Regardless of units, I think the cultural imprint of Eternal Sunshine is almost (if not just) as significant as Thank U, Next. Plus, Thank U had the added boost of following Sweetener — which likely led to a larger first-week sum, as it arrived within six months of its predecessor and continued to offer a behind-the-scenes look at Ari’s most front-facing era. With Eternal Sunshine, the first week showing is impressive for a variety of factors: the rollout was swift, with only one single in “Yes, And?” arriving ahead of the album’s release; Ari herself has been somewhat out of the spotlight – despite inspiring countless headlines – as she filmed Wicked; and she was selective with press leading up to its arrival. All in all, a No. 1 debut is always something worth celebrating – and even if its opening week had fallen short, Ari made this album for herself. As she declared in “Yes, And?”: “I’m so done with caring with you think.” 

Jason Lipshutz: An 8. Eternal Sunshine follows the longest recording gap in her career, and while lead single “Yes, And?” debuted at No. 1 on the Hot 100 in January, the song hasn’t functioned like a months-long top 10 smash on the level of something like the Thank U, Next title track. With those factors in mind, Grande returning with the biggest debut of the years so far, and an even stronger first-week performance than that of Positions, has to feel highly encouraging, and the confirmation of a superstar who still generates a ton of excitement even after a relatively prolonged break. 

Andrew Unterberger: Without “Yes, And?” and its relatively muted reception, I would’ve said 7. Following it, I might say 9. We’ll split the difference and say 8 overall here: It’s a very fine first-week total that feels even finer since Grande looked at least slightly at risk of coming in soft following the somewhat iffy response to its lead single.

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2. This album was promoted somewhat unusually compared to Grande’s other recent releases, considering that it was announced months in advance, but only with one new song dropped pre-release — the No. 1-debuting but somewhat coolly received “Yes, And?” Do you think the first-week debut justifies the promotional strategy, or did she potentially leave units on the table?

Katie Atkinson: It justifies the strategy, because her fans consumed almost everything all at once, instead of skipping over the pre-release tracks they’d already heard. The album’s commercial success appears to be the icing on top of an artistically and emotionally fulfilling rollout for Grande, too, given that the project is themed around the end of her marriage and the start of her new relationship, so she’s able to deliver it as a complete work from start to finish. “Sharing it has re-opened a lot of little and big feelings alike and it has been an emotional week in many ways!” she wrote on Instagram to celebrate her No. 1 debut, “but your overwhelmingly loving response to it all has made me feel such joyful, human connection and comfort.” Much of that response was possible by saving almost the full album for release day.

Kyle Denis: Absolutely — to both, kinda. There’s no doubt in mind that with a stronger-performing lead single, Eternal Sunshine could have at least crossed the 250,000 mark. Nonetheless, I do think the limited appearances and intentional focus on the music is a campaign much better suited for 2024 Ariana Grande than, say, 2014 Ariana Grande. 

Lyndsey Havens: I’ve always been a fan of a highly anticipated album being preceded by one track – and not even its best one. My guess if that Ari may have not cared all that much about her album’s debut week, and instead of worrying about leaving units on the table she was more concerned with making an album that would last. It seems as if the rollout plan is just heating up, rather than coming to a slow stop – and to me, that’s a strategy that only a seasoned pop player can pull off so well. 

Jason Lipshutz: The first-week performance of Eternal Sunshine — plus the fact that both its lead single and second single hit No. 1 on the Hot 100 — makes the rollout look like a stroke of genius. Grande was able to generate excitement around her return with “Yes, And?,” then preserve a lot of that anticipation around the rest of the album; “We Can’t Be Friends” was a clear standout upon its release, and a new music video was locked and loaded in order to help Grande score back-to-back chart-toppers. Of course, none of this works if Grande didn’t come correct with the new music, but as far as releasing that music for maximum impact, I’m not sure how you could have drawn it up better.

Andrew Unterberger: It maybe validated it, but it definitely rescued it. “Yes, And?” was a fine-enough “I’m back” single, but it probably wasn’t quite the undeniable smash that fans were hoping for after what was essentially a three-year absence for Grande. To see that song quickly tumble out of the top 10 and decline to follow it up was really putting herself at risk if the album didn’t deliver immediately. But it did — helps of course that the album is very, very good — and now the whole thing seems like it’s unfolded exactly as it should have. All part of Grande’s brilliant design? Only she knows for sure, but it doesn’t really matter at this point anyway.

3. Eternal Sunshine ultimately outperformed most early first-week projections, largely because consumption of the album — in particular lead single “We Can’t Be Friends” — continued rising past the weekend. Why do you think the album managed to maintain its momentum at a time when albums so often begin fading almost immediately after release?

Katie Atkinson: There was a lot of discourse online about what each song was about and what it said about her relationships, old and new. And for “We Can’t Be Friends” specifically, there’s the music video that takes the album’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind inspiration to its literal conclusion by re-creating vignettes from the film with Ariana stepping for Kate Winslet and Evan Peters stepping in for Jim Carrey. It bears repeat viewings for how beautiful and very, very sad it is. (And as the YouTube commenters have pointed out, it’s nice to see a “playful/smiley” version of Peters, who typically plays very dark characters.)

Kyle Denis: It’s not the most mind-blowing answer, but Eternal Sunshine is simply a great album that gets better and reveals more layers (both musically and conceptually) with each listen – and not too many mainstream pop albums are doing that currently. Grande also used to be notorious for how she would shower fans with snippets and teases months before releasing an album. With none of that happening this time around, fans had no choice but to sit with the album and immerse themselves in the world Grande and her collaborators crafted.  

Lyndsey Havens: I think it’s directly correlated to the fact that projections were low for this album. On a musical level, it’s clear that Eternal Sunshine is Ari at her most confident – each song, especially lead single “Yes, And?” proves as much. And as it pertains to the album’s rollout, that self-assuredness has seemed to carry over. It’s as if Ariana knew she was sitting on gold – it was only a matter of time until everyone else saw the sparkle, too. 

Jason Lipshutz: Multiple factors could have helped Eternal Sunshine sustain its streaming numbers beyond its first weekend, but the main reason is the most obvious one: the album is really, really good. Eternal Sunshine has been met with acclaim by both Arianators and overall pop fans alike, and along with immediate interest in “We Can’t Be Friends” as a breakout single, fans kept returning to, and gobbling up, the album on streaming services. The album outpacing its early projections bodes well for its long-term commercial health — I could see Eternal Sunshine hanging around the top 10 of the Billboard 200 for a while based on this type of universal embrace.

Andrew Unterberger: Grande’s extremely busy and visible weekend no doubt helped a good amount: Following the release of Sunshine that Friday, she brought “Friends” (and albummate “Imperfect for You”) to SNL on Saturday, while also acting in a couple sketches, then appeared at the Oscars to present best original song with her Wicked co-star Cynthia Erivo on Sunday. For a star who felt like she’d largely been absent for the past three years to suddenly be everywhere again undoubtedly made sure she was on everyone’s mind throughout the rest of the week, and no doubt helped those first-week streams a decent amount.

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4. While “Yes, And?” bowed at No. 1 at the Hot 100, it also slipped out of the top 10 two weeks after, not returning to the top tier until this week (when it rebounds to No. 10). Do you think “Friends” will follow a similar trajectory of sliding post-release, or will it be more enduring as a hit than “Yes, And?” has thusfar proven to be?

Katie Atkinson: Well, if you’re asking for me personally, I love “Yes, And?” and its Paula Abdul-indebted music video a lot. But after hearing the full project, “We Can’t Be Friends” feels far more in line with the theme of the album. So while I hope there is a world where “Yes, And?” endures, I will totally understand if the song that’s more emblematic of the album is what fans associate with it in years to come.

Kyle Denis: I think “Friends” will dwarf “Yes, And?” pretty easily. It’s much more easily digestible from a sonic and lyrical standpoint, Grande’s SNL performance was stellar, and the track’s stability throughout its first week signals that audiences are genuinely connecting with it. Although it’s a highly competitive spring — with Cowboy Carter, Tortured Poets and more Vultures LPs on the way — I see “Friends” sticking around the Hot 100 top 10 well into the summer. Hopefully by then, however, “The Boy Is Mine” will have emerged as the album’s next single. 

Lyndsey Havens: I think now that we have the full Eternal Sunshine package, both songs could sustain top-tier placements – though I do think “Friends” is more likely to stick around the top 10, especially as Ari continues to reveal more behind the scenes clips online. And while I love “Friends,” I think the question isn’t is if it will be more enduring than “Yes, And?” but if it will be the most enduring track on the album at all. Grande also chose album standout “Imperfect for You” to perform on Saturday Night Live, a stunning ballad that has yet to reach its full mainstream potential, and we’re now seeing stars like Olivia Rodrigo and Megan Thee Stallion sing along to a sped-up version of “The Boy is Mine” on TikTok. All is to say, I think the genius of this album is that there isn’t one true standout song – we need them all. 

Jason Lipshutz: “We Can’t Be Friends” sounds like the defining hit of this Ariana Grande era, a synth fantasia with blurring relationship lines and a big, heartfelt hook. “Yes, And?” has grown on me quite a bit, but its tone is slightly off-center compared to the rest of Eternal Sunshine; “Friends” captures the main ideas and sound of an album that fans have immediately championed, and I think that will help the single find more chart success than Grande’s previous No. 1 hit.

Andrew Unterberger: It does feel like “Friends” is a bit more of a pop bullseye than “Yes, And?,” and we should see that reflected in its chart performance. I don’t know if its run at No. 1 will ultimately be that much longer than the one week for “Yes, And?” however — the turnover on the charts this year has been much more consistent than it was early in the past couple years, and my recent prediction of a long run atop the Hot 100 for “Texas Hold ‘Em” already appears to have been proven over-enthused.

5. It’s been about a week and a half — where, roughly, do you rank Eternal Sunshine within Grande’s catalog so far?

Katie Atkinson: I would probably put it at No. 3 or 4 at the moment. I love that Ari took a big autobiographical swing on this one, but I might have needed a few dance floor moments to move it up in my ranking.

Kyle Denis: No. 2. Give it until the fall, and we just might have a new No. 1. 

Lyndsey Havens: This is the question I have grappled with the most. On one hand, I have always considered my top album Sweetener and Thank U, Next to be an unsplittable pair, coming in at Nos. 1 and 2, respectively. But the thing about Eternal Sunshine is that, to me, it is so good that I think it has done the impossible: broken the dynamic duo apart. Which is to say, Eternal Sunshine is looking at a runner-up spot to my forever No. 1 Sweetener, creating a bittersweet reality for Thank U, Next.

Jason Lipshutz: In a seven-album race, it earns the bronze medal. Eternal Sunshine represents another mature, high-quality album from Grande that’s more consistently pleasing than Positions but comes up just short of the transcendent nature of the Sweetener/Thank U, Next one-two punch. No shame in that game, of course; taken as a whole, Grande’s albums output has been dizzyingly good since 2018, turning her from a reliable hitmaker to one of pop’s very elite.

Andrew Unterberger: It’s in the exact middle of the pack for me: richer and more considered than her first three sets, but not as sonically satisfying as Sweetener, as sublime as Positions or as emotionally striking as Thank U, Next. Regardless, Grande is undoubtedly in the midst of one of the great album runs for any pop artist this century — maybe any artist, period.