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Ariana Grande expresses her “love language”, goes backward in new album “positions”

Pop sensation releases a collection of slower, steamier, less enjoyable tunes

On Oct. 30, renowned singer-songwriter Ariana Grande released her sixth studio album “positions.” Her usual fast-paced rhythms have been swapped out for steadier beats and more explicit lyrics, but the album falls short of wowing fans with truly smashing hits.  

 This 14-song collection of more relaxed melodies falls much closer to her 2013 album “Yours Truly” than more recent works. While there are some springier songs like “love language,” much of the album proceeds at a languorous pace, with smooth vocals complemented by softer synth beats and string-laden sequences. As always, there’s a vocal medley overlaying some of the lyrics, especially as Grande shows off her incredible range. Fellow artists like Doja Cat, The Weeknd and Ty Dolla $ign also feature.

Lyrically, Grande returns more explicitly to the bedroom as she sings about the intimacy of her sex life. In “34+35,” she asks her lover, “Can you stay up all night? / Fuck me ‘til the daylight.” And for those who missed the meaning of the title, she clarifies at the end that “I wanna 69 with ya / No shit / Math class / Never was good.” Her flirtations extend further in “nasty,” where she promises “I’m still gonna love you when you wake up in the A.M. … this pussy designed for you.”

Her intimacy sometimes extends beyond the physicality of sex, showing a more vulnerable side in songs like “my hair.” As an acoustic guitar solo gives way to steady electronic rhythms and a muted trumpet accompaniment, she confesses, “This ain’t usually me / But I might let it down for you / So come run your hands through my hair, baby.” There’s a gentleness to the way she opens up emotionally. 

From the album's first and last tracks, it’s clear that Grande doesn’t care what people think of her, unless they’re someone she loves dearly. In “shut up,” she reflects on her own growth — “All them demons helped me see shit differently / So don’t be sad for me” — and takes a stab at critics, singing “How you been spending your time? / How you be using your tongue?” At the end of the album in “pov,” she expresses her gratitude toward her partner: “I wanna love me / The way that you love me / For all of my pretty / And all of my ugly too.” 

The album is surely a testament to Grande’s lyrical and vocal power. Yet, as you listen to the tracks, you can’t help but feel as though they all blur into one song. Though the songs vary lyrically, they all feel like an extension of the slower songs in her 2019 album. positions” is less vibrant and revolutionary than Grande’s past albums, “thank u, next” or “Sweetener,” retreating to ideas she had fully explored previously in her career.

The entire anthology is more tempered, echoing the musical landscape of “make up” or “in my head,” but it is less melodically creative. There’s nothing comparable to the opening voicemails in “NASA” or “bloodline” or the contrastive piano chords featured in some of the songs in the “thank u, next” album.

 “positions” is not a bad album — not in the slightest. But the collection feels like Grande going down a path she’s already taken, turning away from the explosive creativity of her previous work. It’s certainly an album from an artist at the peak of her career, but it doesn’t bring her to new heights. 


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