Ariana Grande delivered her sixth studio album, “Positions” on Oct. 30. Arriving a year and a half after her previous album “thank u, next,” Grande makes a return. The album’s title track, “positions,” was released on Oct. 23, with the album following a week later. Even with its minimal marketing, Grande’s “positions” scored the artist her fifth number one album on Billboard. The album fluently combines elements of hip-hop, R&B, house, trap, orchestral, chamber music, and electronic music.
The album begins with “shut up,” a track filled with plucks and smoothly played strings. In a song addressing her haters, Grande tells them to shut up and worry about themselves. The song is both hilarious and biting. The track ends with a magical orchestral outro. In beginning the album this way, Grande gives listeners a taste for the uniformly solid production that follows.
Next on the album comes “34+35.” A song full of sexual pleasure (add up the two numbers and you’ll get the joke), the track serves as the album’s second single and I can see why. The song’s pre-chorus is infectious, which blends into the chorus, in which Grande sings in a softer, playful voice. Grande’s verses are as catchy and engaging as the chorus and pre-chorus, with the third verse being her best.
“Baby, you might need a seatbelt when I ride it” she spits in her smoothly descending vocals. “I’ma leave it open like a door, come inside it / Even though I’m wifey, you can hit it like a side chick / Don’t need no side dick, no.”
Her flow delivery is so confident, moving quickly throughout the repeated section of the song. Upon the release of the single, “34+35” was a fan favorite on social media, and it definitely deserved the buzz.
“motive” is the first collaboration between Grande and Doja Cat, with some help from trap producer Murda Beatz. The bouncy house beat uses a hip-hop influenced production that is blended with R&B elements to create a fun party track. The song’s structure is what compelling. There are sections that remain bouncy, but once the pre-chorus hits, the slowed-down hip-hop influence is shown with a rhythm in half-time. Doja Cat delivers a star-studded rap feature, bringing her glamorous energy that we are all familiar with from songs like “Say So” or “Like That.”
“just like magic” is a trap-inspired track full of lines referencing self-confidence. The production is dreamy and video game-esque with airy synths over trap drums.
“Good karma, my aesthetic” she sings. “Keep my conscience clear, that’s why I’m so magnetic / Manifest it, I finessed it / Take my pen and write some love letters to Heaven.”
The message is clear: Grande gets whatever she wants, whenever she wants. The hook has a bounce to it that makes you want to listen to hear it on loop forever. This song is my personal favorite; Grande has created a self-confident record that is tinged with an old school influence but is also distinctly contemporary. It’s a phenomenal record.
“nasty” is an unforgettable track with light bells in the background and a hard-hitting 808 beat. The low end on this song stands out, complimenting the spacious production. Grande switches things up on the following track, “west side,” which is an ethereal song. The production is mainly a reverse lead noise that provides a feeling of floating, and once the drums come in, the song is complete.
“obvious” is another stand-out track, with Grande singing about a lover who can’t take a hint that she likes him. The strings are slow and soothing, while the drums hit hard, Grande’s singing on this song truly resembles Mariah Carey with her gliding vocals over a 90s-style instrumental.
Grande continues to deliver delicate songs and duets in the later half of the album. “safety net” is an airy track with quirky percussion over mysterious pads. Ty Dolla $ign delivers beautiful vocals, and he and Grande have beautiful chemistry on the song. The subsequent “my hair” is a smooth track, characterized by drum and jazzy piano riffs, and a bouncy bass-line.
Grande ends the album with “pov,” in which she sings of wanting see herself from the point of view of her lover in order to learn to love herself. It’s the most emotionally vulnerable song on “positions,” and thus the most powerful. Ending the album on a note of self-love leaves Grande’s fans with an emotional ballad everyone can learn from.
Even with a long list of favorable songs, there comes a few songs that bring the album down. “off the table,” Grande’s duet with The Weeknd, was a disappointment, which is unfortunate considering I was looking forward to this track the most. The duo previously collaborated on Grande’s second album, “My Everything,” back in 2014 on the track “Love Me Harder,” and it was one of the best songs on the record. Looking back over six years ago, we can see how these two stars went from rising artists to full-blown pop stars. With this in mind, I thought the two musical talents would deliver a second powerful duet. However, I found this track to be a boring one that did not provide much for the listener. Other songs also don’t rise to the same heights as the rest of “positions.” For example, “love language” has annoying strings in the background that grow tiresome over time. I was also not a fan of the title track. The beat was uninteresting, and the song lacks any memorable moments. “six-thirty” is a similarly unfulfilling track that could have been left off the album altogether.
As her sixth album, Grande delivers a solid project with only a few songs that weren’t too memorable. By adding a few new elements to her discography, Grande furthers her current sound by blending lively R&B vocals with hip-hop and pop production. “positions” sees Grande continuing to cement her place as one of the most versatile pop artists of the last decade.
Angel Santana can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.