Ariana Grande surprised us all when she announced the sudden release of her album “Positions” via a tweet in October that read “I can’t wait to give you my album this month.” Ariana added the bit of positivity and fun through her sixth album, and it is just what we all needed to get us through the end of this difficult year.
Positions switches things up for Ariana both lyrically and musically. The lyrics are scandalous and speak honestly about both Grande’s sex life and her emotional healing process after a breakup. Not only does she reveal her new romantic relationship in multiple of the songs on the album, she also speaks about the hesitation that came along with falling in love again. Large orchestral introductions, jazz undertones, and R&B hooks are what makes the sound to this album different from much of Ariana’s previous work. This new music all revolves around her self growth and discoveries after all of the trauma, heartbreak, and even the positive situations Ariana has encountered within the past couple of years.
The album starts with “Shut Up,” which makes the perfect entrance to a storytelling album. Its start is somewhat surprising, but the strings bring the listener in for an easy and enjoyable song. Nothing about it is super emotional, but it is blissful to the ear and still speaks a very strong message that many people need to hear; stop becoming so distracted by other people and their lives and focus on bettering yourself. Lyrically, there have been deeper pieces put out by Grande, but this song is definitely one to close your eyes and visualize, and appreciate the music.
“34+35” came as a surprise. This piece is definitely one of Ariana’s most revealing songs compared to her other fun, upbeat, radio-friendly songs she is used to releasing. The honesty in this song is indescribable. While keeping it raw and real, Grande manages to create a super flirty, pop-based song that has an extremely catchy tune that makes the listener want to listen over and over again.
Watch the music video for “34+35 here:
“Motive” featuring Doja Cat, is the collaboration all pop fans have been waiting for. Their energies and upbeat vibes mesh perfectly and the song is very authentic. It starts with a retro feel, similar to that of Doja Cat’s “Say So,” and slowly transitions to a pop piece with bits and pieces of R&B. Lyrically, Ariana Grande and Doja Cat describe the feeling of being skeptical of a new relationship and questioning if the feelings are real and being reciprocated. This relatable piece combines two very strong female voices to create something beautifully real and fun.
Similar to ‘God Is a Woman,’ the girl boss anthem on Ariana Grande’s album Sweetener released in 2018, “Just Like Magic” is this album’s female empowering anthem. The lyrics in this piece leave the listener hopeful after hearing about Ariana’s struggle with heartbreak and how she has overcome her feelings. Ariana never lets anything come before her goals and decisions, and this song speaks just those words to young people. Women especially, are strong and capable no matter their past or present difficult circumstances.
One of the most emotionally honest songs on the album is “Off the Table” featuring The Weeknd. Grande speaks about the fears of being vulnerable in a new romantic relationship, and it is beautifully described through the lyrics “Might not be quite yet healed or ready, should I be goin’ too steady? But I just wanna know is love completely off the table?” This was definitely a piece reflecting on her past relationships, especially her time with Mac Miller who passed away in 2018. Listeners get a sense of how real and emotional this time was for her and how seriously she takes the healing process of heartbreak. The song ends with the beautiful buildup of Ariana finding love and trust in her new partner told by the sounds of string instruments.
“Six Thirty” is another flirty and upbeat piece that is similar to what is heard on pop radio. Although it is one of the more simple and mainstream pieces on the album, it doesn’t fail to lyrically be relatable and tell a story about Grande’s challenges and insecurities in a relationship setting. It is admirable that Ariana Grande is so open with her personal struggles within her music.
Once again, Ariana shares her vulnerabilities and opens up about relationships and trust issues in “Safety Net” featuring Ty Dolla $ign. The lyrics tell the story of all the anxieties that come with beginning new chapters and healing internally while trying to remain true to yourself. The reference to needing a safety net refers to the tremendous amount of hurt and hesitation Grande has faced. “Is it real this time or is it in my head,” sings Grande, an obvious nod to her song “In My Head” which was released in 2019. This connection between albums “Thank U, Next” and “Positions” shows the huge amount of growth Ariana Grande has gone through within one short year. Melodically, this piece is not the strongest vocally or the most radio worthy, but the authentic, emotional lyrics make up for it.
“My Hair,” my personal favorite, proves how vocally talented Ariana Grande is as she reaches into multiple different genres of music. This song is different from all of the others on the album and completely stands out as an experimental cross between R&B and jazz. Not only does this piece explore new sounds and vocal abilities, it also lyrically covers a topic widely spoken about among Ariana Grande fans, her ponytail.
One of the most simplistic songs on the album that doesn’t really stand out in my opinion is ‘Nasty.’ It is definitely an easy listen, and something that could even be played as background music. The lyrics are rather repetitive and just barely skim the surface of the emotional side that Grande has been sharing throughout the rest of the album. It’s not a skip whatsoever, but I see it as more of a transitional piece than anything else on this album.
One of the pieces I was most intrigued by at the first listen was ‘West Side,’ but now as I have listened more, I feel like it is missing something. The storyline and title really don’t make sense. Maybe it has some significance to Ariana, but she failed to really let us listeners in. Just like ‘Nasty,’ the lyrics are a bit repetitive. Once again, not a skip on the album, but one I would consider a transitional piece or a background music type of vibe.
“Love Language” is such a melodically interesting and upbeat song. It is different from anything else that is out there on the radio, and no other artist has created something quite like it. The sound switches back and forth from traditional pop patterns to elements of jazz. It is one of my favorite pieces on the album because of its unique sound and endearing lyrics about feeling connected with someone.
The title track of the album, “Positions,” would not rank in my top 3 musically, or lyrically, to be honest. Hearing the rest of the album in order with ‘Positions’ stuck in there definitely connected the dots, but the music video even more so helped tell the story and opened my eyes to a new perspective. The piece is simple lyrically, and fun to listen to, but once the music video was released, it took on a whole new meaning. Ariana Grande plays a female in power in the video, and it is filmed in what looks to be the White House. Perfectly lined up with the 2020 election, the ‘Positions’ music video shows yet another way Ariana “switches the positions.”
Watch the official music video for “Positions” here:
The album ends with the most beautiful and touching piece, “POV.” This song is vocally stunning and a perfect finale track. It leaves the listener feeling like the best is yet to come, moving in a direction of self growth and love. The melody is full of rich vocals that show off Grande’s range. The strong high notes and harmonies give the listener goosebumps as they are invited on Ariana’s journey of emotional reflection and falling in love with both herself and her partner. This piece is the perfect ending, capturing the closing of one chapter and the beautiful beginning to the next.
Overall, the record has upbeat pop hits like “Just Like Magic,” “Motive,” and the title track “Positions” that everyone knows and loves. We also are introduced to a new side of Ariana Grande through her experimentation in jazz sounds and deeper R&B exploration in “My Hair,” “Love Language,” and “POV.” Grande has proved her versatility on this album as she belts out emotional and heartfelt lyrics in “Off The Table” while keeping it fun with “34+35.” If Ariana Grande wasn’t already recognized as the best female artist of this generation, then the album ‘Positions’ definitely secures her place.