Album Anatomy: Ariana Grande - Positions

Arnojya Shree dishes out her thoughts on Ariane Grande's latest full-length release, Positions.

Arnojya Shree
13th November 2020

With a drought of good music in 2020, especially with the lockdown, Ariana Grande's new album definitely came as a pleasant surprise. Released on 30th October, Positions is Grande's sixth album under Republic Records.

The sound of the album is mainly dominated with a pop essence, which doesn't quite match the R&B tone Grande insists on bringing out with the songs. The vocals definitely out-do the musical sound of the album by displaying a sense of authenticity as Grande's voice moulds every genre of music to itself. The collaborations are fresh and quite highly-demanded in the pop market with the appearances of Doja Cat, The Weekend and Ty Dolla $ign. 

Positions tries to be mature in terms of sound; aiming for refined and precise, yet ending up quite raw. It's almost as if Grande understands how she wants to sound, but isn't quite there just yet. Mariah Carey's vocals had retained their presence in Grande's songs since the start of her musical journey when she used to cover songs by various artists. Except, in Positions, the album majorly impersonates very 90s pop and an R&B tone with a splash of Britney Spears here and a dash of Christina Aguilera there. All the while, Grande tries to translate the growth, pain and healing into her music. Even with sincere efforts, the album sounds relatively homogeneous, with only a few memorable tracks. There is a lack of synchronicity between the sound of the album and its poetry. Or maybe, between Grande's potential and her record label. 

  1. 'shut up' sounds like a love letter of contemporary times, with the gen-Z concept of love. It acts on its own accords and declares a rather audacious confession. 
  2. '34+35' is a journal entry after a longing-filled day when memories start slipping in your regular routine. Here's the sun at the top of your head and you find yourself smiling in non-belief of having found someone worth losing your sleep for. 
  3. 'motive' (with Doja cat) has mature music, vocals and lyrics. The song isn't afraid of asking questions and is thoughtful about diving in. There is a surety to it which only expands its wisdom with Doja Cat's presence. 
  4. 'just like magic' is self-assured and isn't afraid to own up to itself; past, present and future. If you want to understand what a healthy life after traumatic experiences feels like, this is it. It's a mantra which only explores growth. 
  5. 'off the table' (with The Weeknd) is honest, raw and truthful. There has been some pain, but unspent love still remains. It teaches you the unconditionality of commitment. The Weeknd's sound brings sympathetic support and tries to mirror Grande's narrative without losing its originality.
  6. 'six thirty' seeks comfort in another without forgetting about itself. It's sassy, sweet and inviting. Without making any promises, it makes an open confession in a secret language only infatuation understands. 
  7. 'safety net' (feat. Ty Dolla $ign) realizes the consequences of crossing boundaries and getting out of the ocean of the past. Yet amidst the questioning, something brings the confirmation of reciprocation. 
  8. 'my hair' is not as private it sounds. It's the sound of walls coming down. But that doesn't mean replacing them, either. 
  9. 'nasty' starts off forgetful, but in the latter part, Grande remembers the high-pitched vocals of her debut album; a hallmark element which lies somewhere between Carey and Aguilera. It's a very 90s mood, minus the roundabout expressions. 
  10. 'west side' is slow, tender and reassuring. Grande plays it safe with this one without trying to be too old; with both vocals and harmonies. The song is definitely a jam perfect for long car rides during sunset except its almost time to part. 
  11. 'love language' starts off promising but follows along the path of the rest; identical. With the undertones of Spears in the melody, the song tries to match up with the quirkiness of 90s but hardly comes close.
  12. 'positions'- very obviously justifies why it had to be made into the first single. However, charming as it is, the song sets high expectations for the album. Even with variations and collaborations, Grande fails in keeping it up. 
  13. 'obvious' is witty, demanding and inquisitive without losing its temperament. Grande tries to open up with the lyrics but remains reserved as the song is not able to deliver its message. 
  14. 'pov' is the slow laziness of a Sunday morning; honest, vulnerable and sweet. The lyrics contemplate the pace of melody as Grande brings clarity with her attentive vocals. 

Overall, Positions tries to bring you through different doors and present a varied tracklist. However, it hardly leaves the safe and comfortable place Grande established with her previous album. It's really one up to the decisions of listeners. A bittersweet taste is how I would put it though; it has both its quirky and overdone spots. 


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