It seems like this year’s quarantine has changed many of our beloved, staple artists.
Taylor Swift transformed into an indie-folk poet, Sam Smith fully manifested their genderqueer beauty in "Love Goes" and Ariana Grande healed herself.
Ariana Grande’s surprise 2020 release "Positions" is her most confident, most provocative record to date. After the monumental project that was "thank u, next", Grande took this project to heal from the dark places she explored in her past project — evolving into a more mature woman along the way.
Where this project shines is in its lyricism. Grande expresses a multitude of romantic moods, ranging from frisky to lovestruck. All of which hold a layer of admirable vulnerability. Listeners who understand the tragic story leading up to "thank u, next" know that her last album was the catharsis of a three-months tragedy — what with her old flame Mac Miller passing away late 2018 and the end of her engagement with Saturday Night Live actor Pete Davidson short after.
So to hear her own sexuality and confidence in such a healthy way on this project is lovely. It feels like a love letter to who she was last year.
It’s also worth noting that the collaborations on this project don’t feel superfluous. In today’s soundscape, collabs and features don’t feel like anything more than — at best — a buddy hang out. Grande’s partners on the project (Ty Dolla Sign in “safety net” and The Weeknd on “off the table”) make the songs feel like conversations. That’s a special thing.
Where this record falls short is in its production. In "thank u, next", Grande fully cemented herself as an R&B, trap artist. Unlike most pop acts, however, she innovated on the pop-trap sound consistently, creating a cohesive uniformity in sound from start to finish.
"Positions" doesn’t achieve this quite as well, jumping from trap-pop to 60s love ballad. While I do appreciate the change in sound to be more happier and bright, the tracks don’t fit together quite as nicely. Though, it is worth noting that the use of a string orchestra sound more frequently in this project adds a level of class and when executed well, is outright moving.
“off the table” is a magical duet between Grande and The Weekend — their first collaboration since “Love Me Harder.” The dreamy synths set a scene for their intimate conversation — recognizing the damages of past loves and both artists willingness to bring their best selves to their new love.
“my hair” shows Grande owning her sexuality with her partner in the best way — using the concept of letting one’s hair down during sex as a metaphor for opening up to someone within a relationship.
“pov” closes the album out with a slow beat over the sound of a creek. Grande admits that she wishes that she could love herself the way her new lover does, unbelieving that she could find that love again. This, of course, proves to be her most lyrically magical song to date.
Overall, "positions" is an enjoyable project. While it does have its low points, the project doesn’t fail to keep listeners engaged — rich with moods for every occasion. Cheers to Ms. Ariana Grande for finding her happiness once again.
off the table