Album review: “Positions” by Ariana Grande

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The cover of Ariana Grande's new album. She is holding a makeup pad against her face as she looks left
Singer-songwriter Ariana Grande’s latest album, “Positions,” released Oct. 30. (Republic Records)

Singer-songwriter Ariana Grande says “thank u, next” to her last era and ushers in a new world for her devoted fan base to explore on her new album “Positions.” 

Released on Oct. 30, the 14-track record is a new flavor compared to her past work that tiptoed in the R&B genre. With “Positions,” Grande jumps off the deep end by masterfully fusing pop and R&B to create a euphoric sound that begs for a top 40 hit.  

Accompanied by longtime collaborators Tayla Parx, Victoria Monét and producer Tommy Brown, Grande does not stray too far from what her fan base knows and loves. 

But, to the ear of any devoted fan, it is clear Grande’s sound has developed as she matures as a woman. On “Positions,” Grande explores new sounds and rhythms, creating moods and experiences her fans have yet to hear from the songstress.  

The title track grasps your attention instantly, opening with vibrant, quickly-plucked strings. The song describes her admiration for a new love interest and her willingness to switch ‘positions’ within a relationship to please her lover in any given situation. Whether in the kitchen, the bedroom, or when meeting parents for the first time, Grande is enthusiastic about molding to the needs of her boyfriend. 

Filled with sexual innuendos, Grande is clearly breaking away from the stigma of her Nickelodeon days on the explicit track “34+35.” Playfully, she talks openly about the sexual attraction and desire she feels toward her new partner, singing along to a slinky beat saying, “The way I been craving, if I put it quite plainly, just give me them babies.” 

But the album isn’t all sexy. At times, Grande shifts the tone to touch on mental health, singing about how it plagues romantic relationships and everyday life. She covers the journey from trauma to healing, translated into angelic melodies. Grande is no stranger to talking about the trials and tribulations that come along with mental illness. 

“It’s all simultaneous,” Grande said when asked on the “Zach Sang Show” about the healing process between records. “I think that is evident when you hear ‘off the table’ heading into ‘safety net,’ the fear of new love and your own fear of holding yourself back from having a successful relationship. The music and the healing go hand in hand.”  

“safety net” is a clear sound out on the album. Grande coos on this track afflicted by the ache of trauma that is still bleeding from her troubled past. She questions her ability to love fully again and her fear of falling without the stability of a fully-realized recovery. These intense lyrics complement the song’s somber beat, which evokes the feeling of a car ride alone in the rain. The track features singer-songwriter Ty Dolla $ign, who metaphorically plays the love interest of Grande.  

“[Her] greatest album to date,” commented Frankie Grande, brother of the talented artist, via Instagram. “I am so unbelievably excited for the world to hear it. I love [her] so much and as always I am so proud.”  

With “Positions,” it’s clear Grande has matured as a woman. As she continues to evolve as an artist, she addresses heavy topics in a graceful way, fueled by her ever-present, sheer vocal talent. As her brother said, this album is her best to date.  

zwzpgq@mail.umkc.edu

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