Ariana Grande uplifts us with Positions
Positions is a cohesive, lustful, and dreamy continuation of the singer’s storyline
On October 14th, Ariana Grande casually announced big news on her Twitter account, saying “i can’t wait to give u my album this month”. In a year like this, getting to hear her sixth studio album felt like an early Christmas present. But something felt different this time around... Was it because of the surprise release? The state of the world? Or because she’s writing songs about someone new? Whatever it may be, Positions has a different energy from the get-go.
Album opener “shut up” marks a sweet but dramatic exit from her thank u, next era. The somber strings play alongside her peppy vocals as she sings: “All them demons helped me see shit differently / So don’t be sad for me”. From here, she dives straight into the campy and memorable “34+35”. You don’t need a calculator to figure out this song: “If I put it quite plainly / Just give me them babies”. The track confirms that this just-for-fun tone is her specialty, whether she’s checking in on her partner by asking “Are you down? / What's up?” or simply hyping herself up (“just like magic”), it finds its way to appear over multiple tracks.
The features on this album are tasteful, fitting, and elevate the listening experience. In my personal favourite, “safety net” featuring Ty Dolla $ign, the duo demonstrates the vulnerability of entering a new relationship over a dreamy cosmic-sounding track. The highly-anticipated comeback of Ariana and The Weeknd’s collaboration in “off the table” reminds us of just how compatible their voices can be.
The album maintains a very consistent sound with its R&B influences and string instruments. However, two tracks set themselves apart from the others. Ariana pays homage to her iconic ponytail on the head-bopping track “my hair” where she impressively sings an entire verse in the whistle register. Additionally, the last track “pov” has received considerable praise amongst fans for its mature lyrics. The ballad brings closure to the project and fits like a final puzzle piece.
Positions emanates the ‘newly in love’ feelings from Sweetener, while bringing in the introspection from thank u, next. It feels like a continuation of her storyline, rather than a new chapter. While the album shows off the range in her existing sonic and lyrical palette, it does not tamper with it or reach for something new: and maybe that’s okay.
Ariana sat down with long-time friend Zach Sang to discuss the making of this album. For a musician who seems incredibly confident in her vision, we find out that she had her doubts. She nervously admitted, “I listened to the album 300 times and was like, is this good enough?” But the conversation provided critical insight and placed a finger onto what felt different about the project. Positions is her way of saying: Hey, this is just how I’m feeling right now. A “more vocal [and] more healed reflection of where I’m at" is how she describes it. Positions showcases the songs she’s worked on in the last year, and simply seals her current feelings into a time capsule. In a year like this, Ariana Grande wants to uplift us with her whistle tones and head-bopping beats- and she does exactly just that.