Ariana Grande “Positions” herself into having another strong album


John Dawes, Entertainment Writer

Content warning: This is an album review that addresses sexual themes. Due to the nature of what the album “positions” talks about, if this not something you want to read about, I encourage you to advise from reading it. Thank you. 

Ariana Grande releasing an album is nothing new but always a worthy addition to a strong catalog. After her bright, pulsating, love infused, Pharrell produced pop/R&B magnum opus “sweetener in 2018, and then the more lowkey, down to earth, emotionally charged, and freer thank unext it was expected for the pop mega star to find a middle ground between these two extremes of album aesthetics. That brings us to “positions, an album that is about finding peace and love within yourself but still having the giddy excitement of a new, young, and enthusiastic love. 

positions strong suit is easily its, lyrical and thematic focus. Ariana explores pure romantic love in songs like six thirty when she says, What you gon‘ do when I’m boredAnd I wanna play video games at 2 AM?, What if I need a friend? Will you ride ’til the end?, Am I enough to keep your love?, When I’m old and stuff, will you still have a crush? and she can also pivot to some raunchy and sexual lines like on 34+35when she says, ”Baby, you might need a seatbelt when I ride itI’ma leave it open like a door, come inside itEven though I’m wifey, you can hit it like a side chick” however, she doesn’t miss a beat and paired with her amazing and soaring range, simple but captivating flows, and vocal talent she sells this idea of intimacy.  

Arianna is still scared of what love means, and the impact it has on one mentally. In the first verse of the whole album on “shut up” she says, All them demons helped me see s*** differentlySo don’t be sad for me” and it ends on the closing track. The ethereal and personal “pov, in the song Ariana saysI’ma love you even though I’m scared (Oh, scared), Learnin‘ to be grateful for myself (Oh, oh, oh), You love my lips ’cause they say theThings we’ve always been afraid ofI can feel it startin‘ to subsideLearnin‘ to believe in what is mine.  

The album shows her growth not only as person but as lover and her being able to lend herself out again shows her change of mindset from only wanting love for sex as seen in the earlier songs like “nasty” but love emotionally and romantically with your heart and mind behind it. The change from songs like “34+35” and “nasty” to the closer “pov” is something pop albums do not show often. Instead of vapid radio hits, Arianna shows a very mature growth of finally growing and wanting a relationship built on a personal and not inorganic love. 

However, Ariana makes some mistakes and that is by allowing other guest artists to compromise her aesthetic of intimate but emotionally open ballads, and on an album that is only 41 minutes having 2 features that are barely passable does not help a short and concise track list. Doja Cat feels beyond out of place on the bouncy, hollow, sensual “motive” when she comes in with a herkie jerky and slow flow that lyrically feels vapid. She does not match the beats more down to earth and easy to follow flow, that Ariana gracefully flies over.  

The Weeknd is lyrically more on topic with Ariana on “off the table” a track about the fear of not being able to love again; he sounds so much slower and vocally can’t match Ariana’s vocal peak. He makes the song feel really slow, but once Ariana and he have a pure ballad on this downtrodden, drum and string heavy song he can almost fix the damage his generic verse has. However, credit where credit is due his bar “Even though it feels like I’ll always be number two to someone you can’t hold anymore.”, Sells the themes of not feeling good enough for love perfectly. 

Of course, the soaring pop sensations of “no tears left to cry” for example are missing, but this album is supposed to feel more grounded and personal. However, all those pop mega ballads that Ariana played in stadiums for a reason they are boisterous, independent, and triumphant all without sacrificing emotional depth. “westside” is the only solo song Ariana misses on, she cannot continue the seducing, scandalous, and “nasty” themes of the song adeptly named “nasty”. A song that despite its lyrics is incredibly grounded and sells that intimacy of love and being placed in the middle of the album feels perfect 

This is an album that is beyond grounded and lacks that star power of her other albums, that is in large part due to the production. 

The production is not the star powered Pharrell produced bangers of “sweetener”, but it revels in its orchestral strings, light trap drums, and light bases. This further proves why “westside” sticks out so bad, it is basically all trap productions and lacks the powerful pianos and strings that match the albums themes and let Ariana glide over every song. 

“positions” is Ariana’s combination of “sweeteners” love happy and blindly energetic vibes but with better intimacy then “thank u, next”. While “westside” “motives” and most of “off the table” are low points on an already short album, the shimmering and extremely talented singing of Ariana and her dedication to lyrical and thematic cohesion about a growing love makes this album one of the better pop albums this year. 7.5/10