‘Positions’ review: Ariana Grande still shines in pop’s top spot

If you thought Ariana Grande was a Dangerous Woman before, she’s about to show you that she can get downright Nasty.

Almost two years since the cultural reset of ‘Thank U, Next‘ comes ‘Positions’, which was casually announced by way of Grande’s “i can’t wait to give u my album this month” tweet. And on this album, her sixth, the current reigning queen of pop proves she can cover all grounds (from the kitchen to the bedroom, mind you), and isn’t afraid to show her sultry side.

The tongue-in-cheek ’34+35′, set to be the album’s second single, features some of Grande’s raunchiest lyrics ever: “Can you stay up all night? / Fuck me ’til the daylight / Thirty-four, thirty-five,” she sings in the chorus. The unabashed innuendos don’t end there, as she soon declares that “Baby, you might need a seatbelt when I ride it”. Talk about a power bottom anthem.

Elsewhere on the sensual ‘My Hair’, Grande commands her lover to grab her by the ponytail and get it on. ‘Nasty’ gives us a rare glimpse of Grande’s whistle tone, as she sings about craving a little physical touch. ‘Obvious’ begins with, well, the obvious: “I love the taste of you in the morning,” she coos over a string arrangement.

Grande is no stranger to sex-positive songs like these; one look at her discography and you’ll unearth songs like ‘Love Me Harder’ and ‘Side to Side’ that aren’t shy about their intentions. But after two albums tied in some way to trauma, it’s nice to see her be able to just breathe and enjoy the fun.

Even the non-sexual songs seem built to soundtrack love-making. The steamy R&B jam ‘Off The Table’, featuring The Weeknd, is not quite the ‘Love Me Harder’ 2.0 banger we’d come to expect, but still makes for a successful duet between the two pop juggernauts nonetheless.

The more compelling collaboration on the album, however, goes to ‘Motive’, which features Doja Cat. The thumping track calls to mind Tinashe’s ‘Save Room For Us’, borrowing from both R&B and funk as Grande questions her lover’s intentions. Upbeat moments have become rare in Grande’s recent discography, but we get another one with ‘Love Language’, which contains probably the album’s best lyric: “Baby, pardon my French, but could you speak in tongues?”.

While traces of the “trap pop” sound that Grande leaned towards for her past few releases still appear on this album, the lush strings we got on her early work make a surprise comeback on several tracks like ‘Shut Up’, ‘Six Thirty’ and ‘POV’. ‘POV’, which closes the album, sounds particularly like a throwback to Grande’s ‘Yours Truly’ days.

Sure, ‘Positions’ is no new territory for the 27-year-old singer who’s had an indelible influence on the music trends of the past few years. The album feels like a safe venture, playing to things we’ve largely heard before. Yet, the cheeky and lackadaisical nature of ‘Positions’ makes it apparent that it is gunning more for a “Christmas and Chill” time than anything else. Ariana Grande is in the mood to get it on—and she wants you to know it. And after two albums that saw her inverted on the cover, ‘Positions’ marks a clear change to that. Things are looking up for Grande again and hopefully someday soon, it’ll be the same for the world, too.

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