It’s been over a year since Ariana Grande has released a new album (besides her tour album “Bye for Now”), and “Positions” is her hottest album to date. In the past her music style has been pop with an R&B influence, whereas this one is much more R&B with a pop influence, something I was excited to hear from her. She usually stays in an upper range showing off her higher octaves and keeps things more PG to PG-13 when it comes to lyrics. In her last two albums, “Sweetener” and “Thank u, Next,” Ariana gets a lot more personal when it comes to her personal life and how she dealt with the ending of her relationship and death of Mac Miller. There was a slight hint at a more slowed down style and a sexually personal album. “Positions” doesn’t disappoint, giving us a hint to what her coronavirus quarantine was like.
“Positions” consists of 14 tracks that are all very sexual but in the best and classiest way possible. The album doesn’t waste any time having the most sexual song in Ariana’s discography at the top with “34+35.” It wasn’t until I listened to the first couple of lines that I realized what the title meant and if you still haven’t caught on by the end of the song, she clarifies it for you at the very end. This is a playful song in both lyrics and vocals, switching octaves and breathiness often. Other songs that are on the same wavelength are “My Hair,” “Nasty,” and “Positions.” “Positions” is very relaxed in tone and fun, being the perfect option for the first single and a great way to show the direction of the album. “Nasty” and “My Hair” are two of the most R&B influenced songs being jazzy and sexy in vocals and beat. “My Hair” also features the most impressive vocals of the album with Ari singing “run your hands through my hair” in a whistle note. We heard her first whistle note in “Imagine” off of “Thank U, Next,” but this is the first time she’s sung lyrics in a whistle note, which is quite impressive.
From there, things stay sexual but are tame compared to “34+35.” Ari gives us a trio of features at the top half of the album leaving the back-half feature free. “Motive” keeps up the upbeat vibe that the last two songs had. The song itself is fun and relatable, asking a guy if he’s there for a hookup or a relationship. Ari plays with runs giving it a “Dangerous Woman” era vibe. Then the song goes a bit downhill with the addition of Doja Cat. It’s hard to tell if she’s trying to rap or sing in certain parts of the verse and her breathing is choppy and kills the song a bit. We’re then given the best track on the album and one of Ariana’s best collabs to date with “Off the Table” featuring the Weeknd. This is like a sequel song to their previous collaboration, “Love Me Harder,” on her second album “My Everything.” It’s more of a loving song compared to the others, being very R&B and emotional. Their voices blend seamlessly creating a beautiful harmony throughout the song. Then, we’re given another great collab with Ty Dolla $ign in “Safety Net.” The lyrics and vocals are simple, letting the melody and harmony carry out the emotion of the song.
The rest of the tracks all have something different to offer. “Just Like Magic” is vibey and empowering, explaining how she keeps in a positive mindset. “Love Language” and “POV” are very different in style, the former being much sexier in vocal style. However, they share similar messages, with “POV” saying she sees how the guy loves and appreciates her and “Love Language” being the opposite, with her saying how she loves him. The last four tracks “Shut Up,” “Six Thirty,” “West Side,” and “Obvious” are all good in their own way, some being better than others, but don’t have anything distinctive about them that sets them above the rest. “Shut Up” and “Obvious” are the best of those four, giving us some fun runs and vocal switch ups.
Overall, the album’s a hit. Is it the best of Ariana’s six albums? No, but it is up there on the list. The track list gives us a lot of smooth sexiness with beautiful harmonies throughout each song, a classic Ari signature style, harmonizing with herself. Her back up vocals are where she plays around the most leaving the main vocals simple and relaxed with some vocal tricks thrown in. The album is a 1980s meets 2020 R&B version of her last three albums, taking style and vocal tricks from each to make a new sound.