Release Date: Oct 30, 2020
Record label: Republic
No one is doing it quite like Ariana Grande. In 2018, she gave us Sweetener. In 2019, we got thank u, next.
Positions is Grande's third album in as many years amounts to the dirtiest, sexiest, raunchiest collection of tunes Grande's ever put out in one go (which is saying something), with the content of the lyrics making more headlines around the world than the actual songs. But what the clickbait articles don't tell you is that these sexually liberated lyrics also hint at Grande's sense of completion within herself - of all the people on Earth, Grande's definitely earned the right to have a little fun. There's some truly magical music on this set.
It's never been a question whether Ariana Grande, pop music's ever-respected overlord trendsetter and - for at least the last five years - reigning monarch, could piece together a textbook-definition R&B project. She's hinted at it. All of her five previous studio albums - hell, even her second Christmas EP - have treated fans to moments of soulful bliss while sandwiching themselves within a traditional pop exoskeleton, with 2019's 'thank u, next' guiding her the closest she's ever been to achieving a full-blown pop shake-off.
During the spring of 2019, in the interval between two titanic releases, Ariana Grande posted her brain on Instagram. The image was from a scan, and it showed regions of her mind lit up from the effects of PTSD, the disorder revealed in clear, screenshot-able form. "That's why her hair's so big," she joked, referencing a line from Mean Girls, "it's full of trauma." The grace with which Grande has navigated horrors--the ability to name their impact and steer towards healing, to make a top-charting song about a panic attack--has become fundamental to her music.
Months before the February 2019 release of thank u, next, Ariana Grande told Billboard she wanted to "put out music in the way a rapper does," meaning that she didn't want to be beholden to the strict release schedule of a pop singer. She wanted to release singles and albums as quickly as she recorded them, a modus operandi that seemed sensible when she delivered an album as vibrant as thank u, next, but when the album is as monochromatic as its swift sequel Positions, it's questionable. Grande designed Positions as mood music -- specifically, it's a soundtrack for long nights of sex.
Ariana Grande would like you to know that she has been having an awful lot of sex. Not a relatively unusual position for a 27-year-old of course, but it’s still a rarity to hear one of the biggest mainstream stars in the world sweetly sing about how much she enjoys a good old 69ing. This isn’t unusual territory for Grande of course – she’s always been a fan of the double entendre, and Side To Side remains one of the most subversive pop songs about being shagged so hard you can’t walk straight.
The Lowdown: Finally, Ariana Grande answers the question we were all asking: what would it sound like if a 1940s film star woke to find herself in the 21st century, carved out her own corner of pop music, adopted the world's most recognizable ponytail, and gathered her soaring vocals and stacked harmonies into an exploration of modern love? Positions, Ariana Grande's sixth studio album, is a journey. It's not so much a departure from her two most recent entries, Sweetener and thank u, next, as it is an amalgamation of those works with her lauded and beloved Dangerous Woman. It's certainly her most explicit album to date, but her musings on romance, lust, longing, and heartache have never sounded more at home than on this orchestral yet beat-heavy record.