Arts Reviews

Album Review: Ariana Grande – Positions

Amrit Virdi

With a record exuding an air of maturity and self-love, American pop princess Ariana Grande makes a triumphant and empowering return with her sixth studio album ‘Positions’. Following a slew of releases in the past two years, this album is a true reflection of both Grande’s musical and personal journeys, as the upbeat melodies and recurrent conceit of female empowerment embedded within the R&B influences create a cohesive and sultry listen.

From a bubblegum-pop, Nickelodeon-friendly approach towards her deubt album ‘Yours Truly’ to a sophisticated maturity being introduced on the 2016 release ‘Dangerous Woman’, Grande’s musical evolution is not stopped at ‘Positions’. The 2020 release evidently carries a different tone to her previous releases. ‘Sweetener’ was written in the midst of Grande’s trauma following the Manchester Arena attack and can also be noted as an ode to her then-fiancé Pete Davidson, penned during their (short-lived) whirlwind romance.

‘thank u, next’ was an unprecedented and surprise release from Grande as the world thought that her split from Pete Davidson and the death of her former-flame Mac Miller would amount to a much-needed hiatus from music and the public eye. Yet Grande’s resilience shone through as she sought sonic solace and shared her healing process with the world, from tear-jerking tracks like ghostin to retrospective, reflective anthems such as thank u next.

To exhibit the ability of women to excel and succeed in multiple areas of life

‘Positions’ was yet another surprise release (announced just sixteen days prior to the release date) and marks Grande’s new chapter, referencing her newfound love with American real-estate agent Dalton Gomez and her current state of happiness. Title track positions, timely accompanied with a video promoting her fans to vote in the upcoming U.S. presidential elections, is an uplifting and catchy track, critical in the pop genre to exhibit the ability of women to excel and succeed in multiple areas of life and sets the tone for the rest of the album.

These tracks seem to give us an intimate look into Grande’s heart and mind as she uses her fantastic lyricism to share her deepest insecurities

Collaborations with Ty Dolla $ign, The Weeknd and Doja Cat mark Grande’s ventures into new musical spaces with tracks still designed for radio play. A disco-like, toe-tapping backing is combined with a classic trap beat in motive, and you’ll find yourself unconsciously dancing in your seat to it after a few listens. Yet Grande’s versatility shines in off the table and safety net as she makes use of a sultry melody to sing of love and the fear of falling too fast. Along with my hair and pov, listening to these tracks seems to give us an intimate look into Grande’s heart and mind as she uses her fantastic lyricism to share her deepest insecurities in relation to love, namely how she doesn’t know whether to ‘’fight or flight’’ after her past trauma.

Bringing a light-hearted tone to the album however are the likes of nasty and 34+35 where a cheeky and suggestive side to the singer is revealed, echoing tracks such as Hands On Me from her sophomore record ‘My Everything’. Reminiscent of early 2000s club hits, many tracks use a smooth, low-key and soulful beat layered with Grande’s raspy voice and of course her iconic whistle tones. It seems that Grande has really gotten a hold of her powerhouse voice on this record, balancing a mix of the assertive vocals prominent on ‘Dangerous Woman’ and the gentle serenading on ‘Sweetener’ and ‘thank u, next’.

Whilst the album is highly dependent on production and trap beats, the angelic use of saxophone and strings has to be commended. The entire album cinematically opens with orchestral strings on shut up, and six thirty boasts a gentle string backing which slowly crescendos on the bridge as Grande croons ‘’Am I enough to keep your love?’’. Furthermore, the sultry saxophone of my hair paired with Grande’s whistle tones is a stand-out moment for the star sonically.

‘Positions’ is available to buy and stream now, and is definitely a key marker in Grande’s musical journey to commemorate her personal happiness in a sultry and empowering record.

Amrit Virdi

Featured image courtesy of lindsay neilson photos via Flickr. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.

In article Tweets courtesy of @ArianaGrande via Twitter. No changes were made to these Tweets.

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