A surprise album is ordinarily cause for excitement. When Ariana Grande surprised her fans with the single “positions,” the internet was thrown into a tizzy. As copious Arianators were excited at the prospect of the powerhouse singer returning with an all-new album; her first since the massive cultural zeitgeist of thank u, next. When positions debuted, however, the surprise album served to divide the fanbase right down the middle. As Grande’s new mature sound, alienated and caught some of her long-time fans off guard. As a good majority of individuals were expecting the album to have the feel of her single “positions” which is a catchy, upbeat, feminist kind of anthem.
Unlike the single and her previous album, positions is a cinematic and conceptual record that focuses on a story versus producing catchy singles. At the heart of positions is the story of falling head over heels in love, burgeoning romances, and young love. All of which is coming from Grande’s point of view. Anticipating the potential flack for breaking from tradition, Grande warns critics to hold their tongue in “shut up.” As she explains that the new release is coming from a different person, one who has matured and grown.
“All them demons helped me see shit differently / So don’t be sad for me / How you been spending your time? / How you be using your tongue?”
positions in its entirety is a beautifully crafted album, featuring heavenly orchestral arrangements and Grande’s signature voiceover chill computer-generated beats. Undeniably, the focus of this album is Grande’s magnetic and iconic voice. Where Positions falls short for long-time fans and casual listeners, is the often-stale backing tracks; as songs like “six thirty,” “just like magic,” and “nasty” all have similar almost comparable backing tracks. Alternatively, Grande really shines on tracks like “positions,” “pov,” “my hair,” and “off the table” (featuring The Weeknd). As each song features Grande at her most magnetic, while she sings about love and sex from her point of view. “positions” and “pov” in particular are songs reminiscent of that Grande magic that fans have come to expect from the pop queen.
“positions” is this upbeat feel-good track reminiscent of songs like “7 rings.” Grande truly brings her all to this song. Which features those iconic vocal runs alongside an impressive music video directed by none other than Dave Meyers; who was the creative mind behind some of the most memorable music videos of the 21st century. As Meyers’ portfolio features picture-perfect music videos like “Humble” by Kendrick Lamar and “Bad Guy” by Billie Eilish. In the “positions” music video, we see Grande taking on the role of President of the United States. All in all, “positions” is a highlight on the album. It’s classic Ariana Grande with those iconic vocals and powerful feminist undertones.
“pov” clearly follows in a similar vein; as it exemplifies Grande’s growing maturity not just as a songwriter but as an individual deeply in love. Although “pov” closes out the album, the song is undoubtedly one of the strongest on the record both sonically and lyrically. Not only does the song wrap up the album’s story, but lyrically it depicts somebody learning to love themselves, despite their flaws. An all too familiar (yet pertinent) message found countless times across Grande’s repertoire.
Similar to previous albums Grande continues to collaborate with fellow artists like The Weeknd, Doja Cat, and Ty Dollar $ign. Aside from those similarities, however, Positions is a vastly different album. One that is the hallmark of an artist who has matured and truly comes into their own stride. Grande is unafraid to experiment with her sound, even if it risks alienating a few fans in the process.
Positions as a whole is a troubled album that is lacking in that iconic, signature Grande spark found in previous records like Sweetener and thank u, next. Yet on the flipside of the coin, Positions features Grande’s strongest lyrics and storytelling to date. Which makes it rather difficult to come down on one side or the other. Either in favor of or against Grande’s latest album. Positions much like many other albums has its strengths and it has its weaknesses. Admittedly the LP is commendable work. As it features Grande at her most authentic while she recounts tales of modern romance.