Friday October 30 was the day every Ariana Grande fan had been waiting for. The day she released her highly anticipated sixth studio album, ‘positions’ (aka AG6), her third album in two years.
In true Ariana Grande style, she announced her upcoming release casually over a tweet. This sent fans (including myself) into a frenzy wondering what this new era of music would bring for them.
Since the pandemic started, Ariana has released two collaborative songs. One with Justin Bieber (‘Stuck with U’) and the other with fellow pop powerhouse Lady Gaga (‘Rain On Me’). Both of which dominated the charts and most people’s TikTok feeds. The past three years of Grande’s life have mostly been clouded with highly documented life events. These have inevitably inspired her two albums ‘Sweetener’ and the quick follow up ‘Thank U, Next’. So, it’s of no surprise that her latest album opens with the song ‘Shut Up’. The two-and-a-half-minute opener is a clear, direct message to her critics about how she’s been doing since her last album. She gives a warning that it’s a part of her life that she feels she no longer needs to comment on.
Once you’re past the first track, the rest of the album seems like a love letter that she has written for herself rather than for the ears or opinions of others. The album addresses how she’s approaching love again following her breakup with fiancée Pete Davidson and the unexpected death of her ex-boyfriend Mac Miller. This is steeped in vulnerability, sensuality, and hesitance.
‘Positions’ offers a different tone of conversation compared to its prior albums. One of Ariana Grande’s unique selling points and expansive likeability is her tendency to be glaringly transparent about the topics of her songwriting. In this album, her focus is new boyfriend Dalton Gomez. The real estate agent comes to the spotlight as the person in Grande’s album — making her question if she’s brave enough to fall in love again. The short answer is yes. While some songs linger in indecision about whether she should move forward, the overarching theme that eclipses the album is her most intimate moments with her partner – both emotionally and sexually.
Too quick or, just right?
The 14-song album which is over in 41 minutes is not an unusual running time for an Ariana Grande album. But, compared to its predecessors, ‘Positions’ feels like an album which is only half complete. By the time the album really starts, it comes to an end. This is a feeling you wouldn’t usually associate with an artist like Grande. This could be down to a variety of reasons from both personal preference and management obligations. The general consensus is that this album was created for her benefit rather than an audience. Or it could be down to the requirement of Scooter Braun’s management company who also manages Justin Bieber. Their album was also met with sub-par reviews.
‘Positions’ is the lead single from her album, which was accompanied by an apposite music video. This places Ariana in the White House where she plays a young, Jackie–O inspired President of the United States. Maybe it was the forceful nature of this single which misled people on what to expect for the rest of the album. The single left people hoping this was another album filled with similar songs to ‘break up with your girlfriend, I’m bored’ and ‘7 rings’. Instead, ‘Positions’ is an outlier amongst a track list of laid back, old school, R’n’B-inspired tracks with the occasional hint of her cheeky, unapologetically suggestive pop princess aesthetic in songs such as ‘love language’ and ‘34+35’, which mirrors the likes of Beyonce’s ‘Blow’.
It took four listens through to class any song as ‘memorable’. I kept on resorting back to the safety of her current #1 single, but it became evident that her carefully picked collaborations are the standouts for me. For this album, Grande teams up with Doja Cat, Ty Dollar $ign, and rekindles with her old collaborator, The Weeknd. I hoped for more with her song ‘off the table’, featuring The Weeknd, with a continuative story from their previous collaboration ‘Love Me Harder’. However, I was pleasantly surprised with Ty Dollar $ign’s contribution to the album which is not only reminiscent of Ariana’s previous songs but one of the more relatable tracks. It was heartening to hear the back and forth of Ariana becoming at peace with herself and falling into a new relationship which could result in her make or break with love.
Ariana’s new era?
To conclude the album, Grande finishes off with ‘pov’ which falls to the more romantic aspect of her relationship. This is a fairly touching way to round off an album which mostly avoids romanticising the relationship. Instead, she focuses on the sexual attraction between the pair. It feels as though she resolves her emotional journey by settling on the fact, she wants to love herself the way her partner loves her. It’s a song that would belong at the end of a coming-of-age film as Grande becomes resigned to the fact that her efforts and reluctance to fall in love have been dismantled by this new person in her life. It lasts longer than the majority of the track list and reflects the same idealistic and starry-eyed tones I felt while listening to her younger albums, ‘Yours Truly’ and ‘My Everything’.
I wouldn’t classify ‘Positions’ as a career-defining step into a new era of music. Other female artists such as Taylor Swift and Selena Gomez have released albums this year, helping them re-emerge as evolving artists who can dabble in other genres of music. With Ariana, I feel this is an album with a clear narrative but in terms of sound – nothing we haven’t heard before. Not to say it is a bad album – it just leaves the listener craving more notable tracks rather than an album where you can’t differentiate between some of the songs. In her defence, this is the first album in years that has not been enveloped in expectation or headlines, which may be the appeal of ‘Positions’ for many listening, including herself.
Tracklist Ranking: https://jesseepinkman.tumblr.com/positionssort
Follow the link to create your own ranking!
|7||off the table|
|8||just like magic|