Musicality: The saving grace of Ariana Grande’s latest album, “positions”

On October 30, Ariana Grande released her sixth studio album, positions, and after mulling it over for two months, I finally have a firm grasp on the album to review it. 

On my first listen, I hated this album. The sexually explicit lyrics surprised me and made listening awkward and uncomfortable. I felt like I was learning things about Grande’s relationship that I didn’t need to know.

Though the sexual nature of the album shocked me, it really shouldn’t have. Grande’s demographic has been shifting over the past few years due to her additions of more sexual topics and innuendos. What was once a young tween audience has become more of a 15-23 audience. With songs like “Side to Side” with Nicki Minaj, and “Dangerous Woman,” Grande has been approaching the sexual themes in many records. 

In her last album, thank u next, she only had one song, “make up,” that obviously touched on the topic of sex. This album, positions, has at least three songs, “positions”, “34 + 35”, and “nasty,” that dive into that topic. This emergence and acceptance of the physical aspects of relationships, as well as Grande’s acceptance of her own body, is not only changing her demographic but also joining the new movement in music to recognize and uplift women’s bodies and sexual needs. 

Another example of this sexual topic in modern music is the well-known hip hop song “WAP” by Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion. This record received a lot of attention and criticism from the media for being vulgar and inappropriate, whereas the artists argued that they were promoting and celebrating their womanhood, which is atypical to the current music scene. In my opinion, this is a great topic to bring to the music industry, mostly because it is so different from a lot of the female-empowering tracks that are released. 

With positions and “WAP,” the bluntness and addictive beats of the songs acknowledge and welcome the physical side of relationships into music. This is what makes these songs stand out and promote important discussions about women’s body image, as well as sensual feelings that often get pushed out by emotion in music. 

Musicality is what saved this album for me. If it were not for the interesting R&B backing tracks, as well as Grande’s vocals, I likely would not have continued to listen to positions until I got hooked. I still wouldn’t sing the explicit lyrics out loud in the shower, for example, because they are very awkward for me, but the innovative use of harmonies, violins, and drums keep me coming back for more. 

My favorite three songs from the album are “off the table,” her collaboration with artist The Weeknd, “34 + 35,” and “love language.” The reason I like all three of these songs is because they don’t sound the same, which counters that consistent critique in Grande’s music. They all have distinct vibes, and I love the jazz undertone of “love language” because it’s rarely explored in pop music. 

My least favorites include “obvious,” “my hair,” and “six thirty.” I wasn’t as big of a fan of these because they sounded similar to me, and I didn’t really see myself wanting to play those songs. During multiple listens to the album, I skipped all three of them at one point.

Grande’s music has touched the lives and the hearts of many, mostly because of its honesty and its emotional awareness. She has never shied away from baring her soul in her songs and addressing the hardships that take place in her very public life. Over time, her fans have grown to trust Grande to put out the truth because of this unabashedness. The way she does this, in my opinion, is far different from any other artist before her.

positions absolutely follows the theme of emotional awareness, in songs like “west side” and “six thirty” which tackle the questions that everybody asks in serious relationships: Are you really committed? Is this going to go somewhere real?

Most times, when people think of songs that express personal truths, they think of ballads and slower songs that give more time to dive into the feelings of the artist. With Grande, the more funky drum sets and effects there are, the better the message is conveyed, and the more people like it. 

Her last album, thank u next, an incredibly personal album, debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart and garnered the “biggest streaming week ever for a pop album,” according to Billboard. positions also debuted at number one and made Grande the first woman to accumulate three no. 1 studio albums in less than 2 years and 3 months, the fastest on record.

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