How exactly does someone like Ariana Grande top one of the boldest and contemplative break-up albums? With a collection of voluptuous slow jams, of course. While Grande is no stranger to not-so-subtle innuendos and come-ons, her new record ‘Positions’ displays her dirty mind and sense of humour for the world to hear. There are no more tears left to cry as this album confidently moves on to the next chapter of Grande’s life with not a trace of break-up blues. In fact, the protagonist of this narrative is very much a woman in love. With playful tones and seductive lines, ‘Positions’ keeps a balance of rhythms in celebrating the beginnings of new love and the reservations of the fear it entails.
Opening with a flush of strings in the album’s symphonic opener ‘shut up’, Grande casts a middle finger to all the negative energy that made up her comparatively bleary album ‘thank u, next’. She sings that ‘all them demons helped [her] s*** differently’, already saying a blissful farewell to the pain of the past as she goes from healing to health. While this track does remain a lyrical outlier, it still shifts well into one of the albums most popular song, ‘34+35’. Surely, you’ve heard it right?
‘34+35’ makes the opener forgettable in under a minute. The strings are so bubbly and lively it almost sounds like a Disney princess skipping through a meadow as she sings about her many ‘positions’; the album escalates quickly to say the least. This straightforwardness sets the tone for the rest of the record. But it is this nature that encapsulates the message Grande is sending to her audience, and effectively takes the risks that some artists refuse to. This authenticity in fact is one of the reasons that Ariana Grande remains one of my favourite artists. She’s over the constraints of censorship and here to show her audience the multitudes to women. You can be professional and present whilst also being fun.
Next up on the track list is ‘Motive’ and this has to be the most upbeat tune on the record. With a muffled disco bounce, Grande collabs with Doja Cat: an artist who’s hit track ‘Say So’ takes us right back to the very early stages of quarantine. As the two artists come together to cross examine a potential lover, you can’t help but move your head to this song. The house rhythm just about makes up for the hoarseness of Doja Cat’s vocals; Grande harmonises enough for the both of them. Then comes in ‘just like magic’ which is the carefree anthem that you’ll permanently have stuck in your head. It’s full of sparkle and finger-snaps with sweet undertones.
I’ll be honest, at this point of the track list, the album was not what I expected from Grande and I was initially disappointed with the lack of hits. The single ‘positions’ that was released days before the album, really set the tone for an album full of big sensations like it. But the first listen felt slightly anticlimactic. It’s not that intense of an album. However, it’s refreshing to see that side to Grande. Not everyone is in constant agony from heart break and while there are no surprises, it’s the perfect album for a bit of serene vibing.
Nevertheless, the record can still resonate with so many as it doesn’t weld grand sentiments of relationship trauma; it instead follows the unsteady path of healing and finding peace in yourself. ‘I wanna trust me the way that you trust me’ Grande sings on ‘pov’, her lyrics raw and voice tender. This track knocks romance out of the park as she celebrates and admires the way her partner sees her. Ultimately, this song is a favourite of mine and the evocative vocals feel so soulful that you can’t help but gush over how in love Grande and her new boyfriend are.
That being said, it this sheer giddiness that propels the album and heightens the tension enough to not make this a total let down. You have to remind yourself that Grande is in love and at peace with it. While love songs are typically more upbeat and have you singing from the rooftops, the smoothness of the rhythms emphasises more on the precautions of new love; this is what the album is about. While the drape of harmonies over the hazy synths prevents this album from taking new heights, it perfectly vocalises the vulnerable feel that Grande is trying to capsulate.
In addition to this, the blissful harmonising in songs like ‘safety net’ acknowledges this sense of apprehension with lyrics like ‘don’t know if I should fight or fly’. Yes, you can argue that there’s a void to be filled with the heroic anthems that feature in her other works. There’s no powerful synth like ‘god is a woman’ and ‘breathin’ nor is it guided by a specific mission like honouring a past relationship. But songs like ‘love language’ keeps the record just upbeat enough to make up for this.
Overall, with ‘Positions’ Grande, has clearly grasped the control and ease she lacked in her previous album ‘Sweetener’, her words so silkily inside the hooks as she abandons the soul-searching tone. While not her most dramatic album, ‘Position’ is indeed her most sensuous and there’s an insistent urge to take something from the tangible pain she experienced. She’s starting to feel safe again in her own head and experience the best parts of a new relationship, this the sweetest part about the album.