‘Positions’ captures Grande in a new light

Towards the beginning of October, Ariana Grande began dropping more and more hints that she was going to be releasing new music.

On her Instagram, she posted a cryptic video of her typing the word “positions.” Later, two official countdowns were launched on her website, which fans speculated to be for a new single and a full album. Then, on Oct. 14, she tweeted: “I can’t wait to give you my album this month.”

The 27-year old singer dropped her newest single, “Positions,” on Oct. 23 alongside a 3-minute music video for the song. With the song being released only 11 days before election day, Grande uses her music video to promote voting.

On Instagram she posted a series of the eight 60’s glam, retro looks she wore in the “Positions” music video. The fashion is heavily influenced by first lady Jackie Kennedy and fits perfectly with her flaunting around the White House as Commander-in-Chief.

There’s a playfulness in Grande’s lyrics as she makes it clear her next era will be a total switch of positions from what she has been releasing in recent years. Sex is a heavy theme within her newest album, and the frankness about her sexuality captures the second wave feminism she is paying homage to in her “Positions” music video.

Back in 2018, Grande released “Sweetener” after a terrorist bombing at one of her live concerts in Manchester. Her 2019 album, “Thank You, Next,” followed her ex-boyfriend Mac Miller’s overdose and public engagement and breakup with Pete Davidson. The two albums, while elegant and masterpieces in themselves, held a sense of somberness and added depth to pop music as we define it today.

“Positions” released under the same name as her single was made public on Oct. 30. It is Ariana Grande’s sixth studio album. Throughout the 45 minutes, listeners experience a new side of Grande.

This album lacks the heavy emotion that “Sweetener” and “Thank You, Next” had delivered. Yet, Grande still makes the album feel like a personal look into how her 2020 has developed.

“Shut Up,” the first track in the album, perfectly sets up the mood for this new era of music she is going to be producing. The song – like many on the album – is short, sweet, and too the point. Right from the beginning Grande croons, “All them demons helped me see shit differently / so don’t be sad for me.”

This album is a look past the tabloids scrutinizing her every move or the “demons” she has faced in the past. Grande’s personal life has always been carefully hidden from the public’s eye.

The only look fans get into who she is, is through her music. As one can see with “Positions” it seems that her and her new boyfriend, Dalton Gomez, have been getting along just fine in quarantine.

Songs like “34 + 35” (you do the math) have a perfect blend of cheekiness and openness. She’s playfully coy. However, “34 + 35” and similar songs, like “Nasty,” remind that pain and loss are a part of life, but so is pleasure. There is no shame in blissing out on sexual vim or experiencing new love to the fullest.

She explores the fear of falling in love again with her song “Safety Net feat. Ty Dolla $ign.” Cleverly placed towards the middle of the album lyrics like “I’ve never been this scared before / feelings I just can’t ignore / don’t know if I should fight of fly” expose the depth that listeners are used to with Grande.

“My Hair” is easily the best track on the album. A neo-soul number assisted by trumpets gives Grande’s voice a jazzy, yet incredibly flirty, vibe. We can see that Grande is embracing the world seeing who she as she overcomes trauma. Plus, the whistle-register outro just reminds everyone of the vocal queen she will always be.

“Positions” has been criticized for lacking the depth that “Sweetener” and “Thank You, Next” had delivered to the world. I can see why people’s expectations were so high, seeing that those two albums had one of the highest-grossing tours of 2018 and 2019, but her latest album is a reminder that time and reflection heals.

Her voice is powerful, so self-assured throughout the album. All the aspects that made her previous two albums successful are there, but it’s clear that this is just a fun quarantine project. Grande is looking to explore new rhythms and moods rather than produce serious insight onto the atmosphere of 2020.