positions ariana grande

“Positions” provides listeners with mixed impressions

With downtempo yet effervescent melodies in each song, “Positions” is successful in once again portraying Ariana Grande’s current take on love, desire and trust. “Positions” was released on Friday, Oct. 30 as her sixth studio album. Although the album fits perfectly with Grande’s pop catalog of records and features a subtle shift into a more polished, R&B approach, it lacks a clear distinction of songs. 

The opening song to this 14-track album, “shut up,” serves as Grande’s candid response to her critics. While her vocals are surrounded by sophisticated, orchestral strings, Grande sings “So maybe you should shut up,” referring to how the public and media are too interested in her personal life. In the chorus, she strongly reminds them that they need to focus more on themselves rather than how she is spending her own time. Although her smooth and harmonious vocals are interesting in themselves, the most intriguing part about this track is its ending. Contrasting to the background of plucky strings throughout the song, the last 25 seconds feature a shift in melody, resembling similarities to music from old Hollywood films. 

One of the more anticipated songs off the record, “motive,” features a collaboration with Doja Cat and takes a change in tempo. With lyrics such as “did you want a trophy” and “you got your candy on your arm,” Grande and Doja Cat sing about the importance of finding true intentions at the start of a relationship, ultimately finding one’s “motive.” Compared to the first track of the album, “motive” has more groovy beats throughout each part as both Grande and Doja Cat’s vocals are effortlessly intertwined with one another. 

“Off the table,” which features The Weeknd, provides a slower tempo but has stronger R&B beats that are the perfect balance to its honest lyrics. Marking their second collaboration since “Love Me Harder” from Grande’s album “My Everything,” this track tackles the anxieties of being ready to leap into a deeper part of a relationship. In this duet, The Weeknd sings lyrics of reassurance in response to Grande’s lyrics of doubt. With romantic lyrics like “I can love you harder than I did before,” the track is characterized by aspects of heartfulness and intimacy. In addition, the lyric also references the title of their previous collaboration, seeming like a continuation of their first song together. 

Immediately starting with an upbeat tempo, “love language” also combines a fusion of pop melodies with orchestral strings. Here, Grande sings through layered harmonies in mostly high notes. The theme of this song continues the ideas of love in a relationship; its central focus is on understanding the love language of one’s partner and how this is an act of commitment. Similar to the idea of dedication, Grande features this theme in “positions,” which is the lead single for the album of the same name. While this song also repeats lyrics displaying the need to remain flexible in a relationship, its rhythm fails to be different from many of her other songs such as “bloodline” and “makeup,” which are off her 2019 album, “thank u, next.” 

Furthermore, the album “Positions” does not present itself in a way that is comparable to “sweetener,” her 2018 album, and “thank u, next.” While each song consists of different lyrics telling of various aspects of one’s relationship along with a stronger sense of self, the melody of the record itself seems to blur without many standout tracks, with exception of “pov.” 

Finishing her album with “pov,” Grande ends with a pleasant arrangement of a slowed melody. This song encompasses a progression of vocals and flourished harmonies. “Pov” surpasses the previous songs and implements a deeper reflection of Grande’s relationship with her partner. Through this personal note, this track flawlessly demonstrates an appreciation of how her partner is able to see her truly for who she is.

Although the songs on “Positions” fail to be exceedingly unique, they excellently capture Grande’s pop and R&B sound with newer elements of orchestral melodies. Grande’s usage of layered harmonies and genuine lyrics allow it to be a captivating continuation of her music. 

By Sarah Lew, Print editor-in-chief
Photo courtesy of Apple

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