Our Take: 3/5 Stars
Like many musical artists over these past few months, Ariana Grande has been busy (in more ways than one). The result of her months in quarantine was her sixth studio album, “Positions.” Released on Oct. 30, the much anticipated album failed to live up to massive expectations or to satisfy avid fans.
Grande’s fourth and fifth albums, released only five months apart, cemented her status as a pop princess. The latter, “thank u, next,” was an especially powerful entry in Grande’s discography, encompassing the passing of her ex-boyfriend Mac Miller and the dissolution of her engagement to Pete Davidson while providing music that flexed both her writing and vocal abilities. While it would be hard to top a near masterpiece, “Positions” did not even try to come close to the standards “thank u, next” set.
The central theme of Grande’s new album was defined by the titular single released a week before the album, with Grande insisting on “switchin’ them positions for you.” With other songs such as “nasty” and “34+35” joining the single, Grande’s quarantine activities are made clear to all listeners. Put simply, Ariana Grande is horny and “Positions” is just her taking us along for the ride.
Grande has put out similar content in the past, but what differentiates “Positions” is that most of the album lacks almost any sense of artistry. Grande is a pop artist, so say what you will, but half of the songs sound exactly the same, just different variations of Grande singing over a drum machine. The pure quantity of these unremarkable tracks is what is so disappointing, but the album does have some high points.
The aforementioned “34+35” is the best of the crowd of analogous tracks; its beat and vocal mixture work surprisingly well compared to others. “shut up” and “love language” offer some instrumentation that separate them from the monotony of the rest of the album, and “off the table” featuring the Weeknd is a slow ballad that wins best feature on the album.
“Positions” the song is also a strong contender, with its plucky guitar and classic vocal runs from Grande. Its music video was also one of the best parts of the album so far, which featured Grande running the country from the White House. With an array of First Lady-inspired outfits and good editing, the video eased Americans’ minds as they could imagine that an undeniably competent leader was at the head of the United States.
The best song on the album is “pov,” a soulful melody of Grande wishing to understand how her new boyfriend sees her at her best and worst. Many rankings of the album’s songs have it at the top of their lists, and rightly so. The song is different from the rest of the album, and this is what gives it a timeless quality that puts it among the ranks of Grande’s previous work.
“Positions” may not be Grande’s strongest performance, but it is a decent pop album.
An underwhelming album to Grande’s to fans, maybe, but it still can please casual listeners unfamiliar with her past work.
“Positions” is worth a listen, just do not expect to find a new favorite Ariana Grande song among its tracks.