- 30 Oct 20
Pop princess ventures further into her affair with R&B.
When Ariana Grande promised she would not release her sixth studio album during the coronavirus lockdown, I dreaded the idea that she might join the already teeming multitude of artists making additional work while tucked away in their homes, in direct response to the #pandemic. Even at that early stage, I was impossibly bored of the countless new singles and EPs, always accompanied by a "written, produced, recorded in lockdown" statement. We get it. You're stuck inside (your mansion), you miss your friends, you're lonely. Us mortals, too – minus the mansion. Would it not be more interesting to make something that ignored the ever-present dumpster fire of the world entirely, especially if you had the monetary resources to do so? Enter Positions.
Grande's latest offering is a heady, unabashed ode to the least pandemic-approved activity you can possibly engage in: sex.
Where 2018's sweetener was all dreamy puppy love, full of proverbial heart-eye emojis and complete with name-dropped references to various loves of her life, Positions is steeped in overt sexuality. '34+35' is conversational and cheeky, with its plainly spoken, 'can you stay up all night, fuck me to the daylight?' refrain. On 'nasty', she adopts frankness once again: 'don't wanna wait on it tonight, I wanna get nasty'. It's not a musing, it's a command.
Don't get me wrong, there are introspective moments. They take shape in the confessional bars of 'safety net' ('I've never been this scared before') and 'six thirty', but these are few and far between. The chief concern, here, is pleasure. And why shouldn't it be?
Hitting its stride properly on 'off the table,' the record's fifth track (with a smooth assist from the Weeknd), Positions takes a moment to sink into itself. But as it unfolds, it fuses distinctly 90s and early 'oughts R&B sounds – hello, opening string section – with the trappy beats that are now synonymous with Grande's name. The album eschews the traditional 'hit single' formula, focusing instead on the big picture. She ventures into neo-soul territory on 'my hair', nonchalantly throwing whistle tones away at the end of the track, and 'pov' is a low-light slow jam that revels in Grande's velvet voice.
Positions proves Grande is still as much a pop diva as the women she has long-revered, but she's in the midst of a steamy, extramarital affair with R&B that she seems unable to quit. And honestly, I hope it continues for her lifetime.
Listen to Positions below.