Album Review: Ariana Grande – Positions

Ariana Grande sticks to what she knows best on sensual new record
Ariana Grande had an impressive run in 2018 and 2019, when she released two albums within six months of each other (Sweetener and Thank U, Next) and had numerous number 1 hits around the world. She continued being one of the most productive pop stars of the moment by dropping duets with Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus & Lana Del Rey. For her sixth record Positions, Grande used a different strategy. There was no long road to the record with numerous singles, but a simple announcement with the release of the title track a week ahead of the full thing. Does Positions live up to the global super star status Ariana gained in the past few years?

Positions consists of 14 brand new songs, but listening to the full thing does not take as much time, as the vast majority of the tunes does not even hit the 3 minute mark. It makes the album very 2020 and Spotify friendly, but at the same time causes the tunes to blend into one on the first couple of listens. It also does not help that a lot of the tracks have a similar laid back trappop rhythm and production. As there are no clear stand outs in terms of tempo or production, it takes langer before the songs leave any kind of impression individually.

If you give the record a couple of chances though, there are some absolute gems to be discovered. The record kicks off strongly with ‘Shut Up’, potentially the sweetest way haters have ever been told to mind their own business. The midtempo track is drenched in soaring strings and Ariana’s glorious vocals: even on a track with these lyrics, she sounds warm and sensual. It turns out to be one of the only songs on the record that is not about sex and romance.

Grande serves some of her most explicitly sexual lyrical content on a track like ’34+35′, a nod to the sexual position of those two numbers combined. On the seductive ‘My Hair’ she begs her lover to let his hands go through her hair (which she let down instead of wearing it in her signature ponytail). The chorus is as catchy as it is seductive and her vocals truly shine as she belts out in a needy manner with some impossibly high notes, accompanied by a trumpet. The hook is immaculate and almost sounds like it was taken from some soul classic.

‘My Hair’ is not the only tune that brings the soul on this flirty and sexy body of work. Grande teams up once more with The Weeknd, with whom she had the hit ‘Love Me Harder’ back in 2014. The track ‘Off The Table’ is a romantic duet about giving love a second chance and once again shows off how their voices sound like they were made for each other. Another clear highlight is the belting album closer ‘pov’, on which Ariana declares she would like to see herself through her lover’s eyes to love herself a little more. She serves some of the best vocals of her career over an exquisite production with prominent strings and echoing backing vocals.

One might wonder at this point if Ariana did bring some bops at all this time around. The absolutely single worthy ‘Motive’ probably comes closest to that definition with an irresistible hook and an excellent verse by Doja Cat. ‘Love Language’ subtly flirts with disco, but remains understated throughout, while ‘Safety Net’ featuring TY Dolla $ign serves one of the strongest and most instant choruses on the collection, backed up by some hauntingly beautiful production choices.

Positions sounds like more of the same from Ariana Grande on first listen, but does unfold itself as a layered body of work with beauty in details in all the right places. It might be seen as a safe move overall, but she does not have to re-invent the wheel every single time. She left us with a sensual record that surely will become a favorite in bed rooms all around the world.

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