Ariana Grande Returns to the Top with “Positions”


Ariana Grande just released her new album “Positions.” (Courtesy of Facebook)

After weeks of posting cryptic tweets, Grammy-winning artist Ariana Grande released her highly anticipated sixth studio album, aptly titled “Positions,” last Friday. Just two weeks beforehand on Oct. 14, Grande announced the album’s arrival in a casual tweet that stated “i can’t wait to give u my album this month.” The tweet racked up over 1.3 million likes, showcasing the public’s excitement for her next musical outing.

“Positions” takes a step back to Grande’s R&B roots, maintaining a balance between tranquil retro beats, orchestral background notes and her trademark pop melodies. The songs are short and sweet, with most of them running under three minutes, but her lyrics are nevertheless as sharp and witty as ever.

In contrast to its contemplative predecessor, “thank u, next,” “Positions” offers a more positive, sexual look into Grande’s life at the moment. However, as an album, “Positions” had a lot to live up to: The lyrical mastery and emotional punches of “thank u, next” are a tough act to follow. “Positions” faces a natural struggle with overcoming previous expectations, and it pales in comparison to Grande’s previous albums. 

The main issue stems from the album’s failure to offer a wide variety of vocals and beats. Grande’s voice sounds as angelic as ever, yet many of the songs sound the same, which causes the album to blend together. Even though the titular single “positions” skyrocketed to the top of the charts after its release, the album fails to produce another standout hit among the ranks of “thank u, next” and “7 rings.” The lack of a powerful anomaly weakens “Positions” as a whole, as the songs are not as memorable as those from Grande’s previous albums. 

That said, if one ignores the looming shadow of “thank u, next,” “Positions” stands as a strong, enjoyable outing on its own. It marks a new era of Grande’s career as she moves past her sorrows and focuses on her future. And with this future comes positivity, romance and lots of sex.

Grande’s album opens with a message to her critics, called “shut up.” Within the first few notes listeners will recognize Grande’s familiar sugarcoated choruses with violins humming in the background. Grande’s confidence really shines through here as she calls out her haters for unnecessarily putting her name in their mouth. “How can you be better than me?” she croons, before stretching out the words “shut up” for a few seconds. It’s a note that Grande carries flawlessly. 

Grande’s confidence continues to ramp up throughout the record, and the lyrics get dirty fast. Evident in the title alone, “Positions” isn’t afraid to get raunchy, as it expresses Grande’s quarantine-induced sexual desires with her new boyfriend, Dalton Gomez. The second song on the album, “34+35,” starts with a naughty giggle in the first few seconds before delving into some NSFW lyrics. Grande injects some dirty humor in the song, too. “34+35” makes a quick mathematical joke within the final notes, with Grande teasingly saying, “Means I wanna ‘69’ with you / Aww s— / Math class / Never was good.” 

Surprisingly, “34+35” is just the first of these risky tracks. In the eighth track “my hair,” Grande quite literally lets her hair down, telling her lover to feel comfortable with running their hands through her renowned high ponytail. Immediately after “my hair” ends, the smooth, inviting “nasty” begins, which very well may be the raunchiest number on the record. “What you waitin’ for?” Grande croons. “Don’t wanna wait on it / Tonight, I wanna get (Nasty).” The leading single, “positions,” also contributes to the album’s sexually-charged feel. Out of all the songs, “positions” feels the most pop-oriented, with its catchy chorus and violins echoing in the background.

One may expect the three collaborations on the album to contain the most sexual undertones, yet they offer something different instead. The first notes of “off the table,” which features The Weeknd, hint at a sexual, slow-burning ballad, but the lyrics tell a different story. It expresses Grande’s fears about opening up to a new lover after a difficult breakup. The Weeknd takes on the role of this new lover, telling Grande “I’ll wait for you / Even though it always feels like I’ll be number two / To someone you can’t hold anymore.” 

“Off the table” illustrates a powerful perspective over embarking on new relationships, and the collaboration with Ty Dolla $ign, “safety net,” further expands upon this. Grande serenades about falling fast for a new, lustful relationship and fearing for her heart’s future. Finally, the long-teased collaboration with Doja Cat offers a more upbeat tune called “motive,” which questions a lover’s personal agenda within a blossoming connection. It’s a fun little bop, and listening to Doja Cat’s sugarcoated performances is always enjoyable. 

However, Grande is at her best when she’s expressing a deeper, more personal side. No other song on “Positions” showcases this as well as the closing track “pov.” The song transports the listener right into bed with a significant other, but featuring a “breakfast in bed” vibe rather than a sexual one. A “shhh” sound effect echoes throughout the entire track, and Grande’s sweet vocals feel safe and protective somehow. “Pov” illustrates Grande’s excitement around her healthy relationship with Gomez, and she lovingly wonders “I wanna love me (Ooh) / The way that you love me (Ooh) / Ooh, for all of my pretty and all of my ugly too / I’d love to see me from your point of view.” It’s a beautiful, vulnerable number that showcases “Positions” at its best.

Overall, “Positions” may never be the next “thank u, next.” However, the two albums show Grande at two very different points of her life. “Thank u, next” showed Grande at her lowest point, but “Positions” depicts how she got right back up on her feet and found true happiness. Ariana Grande proves with “Positions” that she is still a force to be reckoned with on the charts, and she truly deserves to be on the top.