By Staff Writer Naveed Shakoor
After releasing critically acclaimed albums Sweetener and thank u, next in a span of six months, Ariana Grande was met with high expectations for her sixth studio album, Positions, released on October 30. The 14-track album has a total of three collaborations with radio sensations The Weeknd, Doja Cat, and Ty Dolla $ign. Grande explores the topics of love, lust, and growth, carrying the vulnerability she incorporated into her past two albums.
Grande’s highly anticipated sixth album Positions was released on October 30.
Positions picks up where thank u, next left off — where Grande finally learns to ignite new relationships in her life, whether it be romantic or with herself. In Positions, Grande begins the tumultuous journey of learning to trust in love again and not giving in to her fears of having another relationship crash and burn.
Grande kicked off her new era with the release of the title track “positions” as her lead single on October 23, setting the tone for the rest of the album. Compared to previous singles she released, “positions” sonically and lyrically takes a departure from Grande’s signature anthemic EDM-infused pop ballads and replaces it with sensual R&B pop production.
The album was preceded by a single, positions.
Grande jumps into a new relationship with tracks “34+35” and “motive,” exploring the honeymoon phase of a blossoming romance. These tracks are important in telling Grande’s story as they introduce her new relationship in a lustful light. As Grande becomes more serious in this relationship, the album quickly takes a turn. In the sorrowful track “off the table” featuring The Weeknd, Grande gets candid with her audience as she discusses her fears in getting involved in this budding relationship. “Will I ever love the same way again … Do I sit this one out and wait for the next life?”
In “off the table,” Grande questions herself in the sentimental ballad with The Weeknd. She doubts her capabilities to love someone the way that she did with her past relationships and loses control in her fight for love. The sincerity of her lyrics contributes to the album feeling more authentic, as she decides to be more candid and vulnerable rather than draping a facade over her emotions.
Grande creates many parallels between Positions and her previous albums. In “pov,” Grande refers to “ghostin,” the heartfelt confession of thank u, next. She sings, “All my baggage fadin’ safely” in “pov”, mirroring the lyrics in “ghostin” where she claims, “I’m a girl with a whole lot of baggage.” Grande communicates to listeners that she has reached a point in her life where she no longer feels the need to carry the weight of her emotional baggage by herself, as finding love has been lifted, bringing her genuine happiness. She showcases her growth from the person she portrayed herself to be in thank u, next and Sweetener, and the parallels within the lyrics emphasize that personal growth.
With her introspective lyrical choices, Grande picks an R&B infused pop instrumental to back every track. However, this subtle shift in genre fails to shine in the album as Grande does not build on the sound she establishes. Instead, she keeps the sound of the tracks monotonous, maintaining a muted trap-like beat for many of the songs. This results in them falling flat in comparison to the better-executed tracks such as “safety net,” “love language,” and “just like magic” — tracks that experiment with unique production choices. Even with layered harmonies and rich falsettos, Grande’s voice gets lost in the mix of overproduction.
Grande draws lyrical parallels with her past albums.
The album is built atop an array of orchestral arrangements. Grande often cuts the sweetness of the strings with her airy lower register, almost rapping over them with a breathy delivery. She creates a marriage between her vocal techniques, layering harmonies over her lower register while her whistle notes glide in the background of many tracks. Grande shows off her vocal agility in the track “my hair,” where she performs an entire verse in high notes and uses her sultry mix to deliver the chorus. Grande’s prominent vocals are the driving force of many of the tracks, as she hums the instrumentals or introduces songs simply with her voice.
In a short span of time, Grande delivers yet another strong album. By broadening her lyrical content, she shows an evolution in her storytelling. Grande’s voice soars in this album, giving listeners her best vocal performance to date. While Grande shows growth and progression with her lyrics and vocal delivery in this album, her mundane production choices cause certain tracks to falter. However, this album did exactly what it needed to do — provide a feel good and honest listen for her fans, especially during the gloomy times of the pandemic.