New Music Review Friday: “Positions” by Ariana Grande

New Music Review Friday: “Positions” by Ariana Grande

New Music Review Friday: “Positions” by Ariana Grande

“Positions” is pretty good, but that’s about it

“Positions” is pretty good, but that’s about it

Text: Ahad Sanwari

Ariana Grande is the new Taylor Swift. With deeply personal songs that have lifted from the singer’s real life, Grande has created an unflappable base of fans who are willing to stand with her through thick and thin. Sweetener showed a woman on the edge, while Thank U, Next was her resurgence and redemption. With all the explicit horniness on Positions, is it hard to imagine how Grande has been spending her quarantine?

Positions is a lazy susan of sex jam after sex jam. If she’s not referencing it directly on tracks like “34+35” and “nasty,” she’s alluding to it on “positions” and “motive.” It’s the natural progression of a woman with all the abandon of a happy life, without all the baggage she’d been carrying through her past albums. But it loses the drama and genuine emotion that came with them, representing instead a feeling during the pandemic that not many people might relate to.

Still, you can rely on Grande to come through with the bangers and hits. But Positions doesn’t supply too many of those, the strongest of the lot being the title track and the collabs, only because they seem like they’d fit into the general chart landscape the best. “off the table,” featuring The Weeknd, is particularly good, although it takes a good 20 seconds to warm up to the track. In hindsight, as the longest track on the album, that works out.

The problem with Positions lies in the musical direction Grande takes. She experiments a lot more with grander strings, layered orchestral harmonies, and the natural range of her voice. It’s like if Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia took an R&B turn. But it constantly feels like she’s holding back from fully committing to it. “nasty” is the track that is most emblematic of everything good and bad about the album. It’s the most explicitly sexual off the record, with lyrics like “Like this pu**y designed for ya (Yeah)/ Ten outta five on ya.” It starts off with a wind-up that sounds like it could be on the opening to “2001: A Space Odyssey” that makes you go “oooh.” But then the beat kicks in, a recycled non-groundbreaking trap beat, and you just go “oh.” Killer vocals, though.

Ariana Grande knows extremely well what works for her musicality, and it’s a talent on its own to be able to perfect that time and again, like she did on Sweetener and Thank U, Next (even My Everything). But on Positions, she sings confidently but sounds unsure. As a result, you end up with an album full of great tracks and lush production, but one that feels distinctly like a collection of largely album cuts.

Will it perform well? Most definitely. Will it be the stuff of legends? Probably not.

Best tracks: “positions,” “off the table” and “my hair”
Weakest tracks: “love language” and “six thirty”
“Where does this go?” track: “nasty”

Credits: Image credits: Republic Records

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