Ariana Grande is Back

Last week, Ariana shocked the world when she tweeted “i can’t wait to give u my album this month.” This was especially surprising considering we’re halfway through October, so we’re left with little to no time to grapple with the idea of new Ariana Grande music, much less a full album. It’s been the longest wait of my life (although it’s only been a week since I knew this song was coming), but “Positions” is finally out.

 

THE SONG

The song is about sex...Obviously. And if that’s shocking to you, have a listen to “Side to Side”, “God Is A Woman”, or “Make Up” to name a few. Nevertheless, the song is incredible. It’s two minutes and 52 seconds of perfection. It’s short, yes, but maybe just the right amount of time to keep you interested. The first verse is only two lines before she goes into the pre-chorus, and the chorus is simple and repetitive, but somehow it doesn’t get boring. Violins accompany her in the background, even though the song has R&B influences. The rhythm that she is singing the lyrics is my favorite part because I don’t think I’ve heard her sing this way before. The multiple layers of her voice in different pitches gives the song even more depth. There’s no all-out belty last chorus full of the high notes that we normally expect to hear from Grande, just a couple of runs and adlibs here and there. And if  “Imagine” from Thank U, Next wasn’t enough, 2:31 is the perfect reminder that she can, in fact, hit whistle notes. 

 

THE VIDEO 

When Grande announced that this video would be directed by Dave Meyers, I knew that Meyers is known for his work on Grande’s “God Is a Woman” and “No Tears Left To Cry,” arguably some of her most stunning visuals to date. He’s also directed Harry Styles’ video for Adore You, Normani’s “Motivation,” Taylor Swift’s “Me!” and more. And of course, this video is anything but a disappointment. 

Although we all know what the song is about, the video suggests an entirely different theme, and if you weren’t listening to the lyrics, you might not know what it’s about (at least, it’s not as obviously suggestive as the bicycle riding in “Side to Side” or the kissing and groping scenes that fill “Everyday”). 

If you’re a fan, you’ll recognize Ariana’s mother, Joan Grande, as well as Tayla Parx, Victoria Monét, Josh Liu (her hairstylist), and some of her backup dancers who all made appearances in the video. However, in contrast to “Thank U, Next,” the best part of this video isn’t about the other celebrity cameos. Just hours after the last Presidential Debate, the sensual song depicts Ariana as the president. Whether it’s coincidental or intentional, we don’t know, but it’s great.

She looks stunning in the 9 different outfits that are reminiscent of Jackie Kennedy’s style- poised, professional, and fashionable. Overall, the video switches back and forth between all the “positions” Ariana can balance-in the kitchen, the bedroom, and all the roles she fulfills as President. The subtle references to 2020 politics make the video even better, such as the scene of her awarding the women of the USPS with medals, or the security guard in the back of the kitchen scene who is wearing a mask. She proves that women can master multiple different jobs, and is an empowering and inspiring theme that I never would have expected from Ariana, especially for this song.

………………

With everything happening in 2020, it seems Grande has taken a step back from the typical pop star promotion schedule for an album (releasing a single or two with a few months time to build excitement around an album). Her charity single with Justin Bieber called “Stuck W U” also debuted at number one in May, yet the singers focused on giving back to frontline workers instead of pushing their fans to stream their way to a #1. During the peak of nationwide protests against police brutality earlier this year, her song with Lady Gaga called “Rain On Me” debuted at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, yet Ariana quickly shifted her focus to fundraising, protesting, and helping to educate her fans. 

Ariana has been pretty quiet on social media these past few months, except for occasional (and very important) reminders about early voting, registering, and requesting ballots. On September 14th, she posted a video of a computer screen playing back her vocals where she is harmonizing with herself, but dipped (again). After her “comeback” tweet announcing that the album was coming this month, she later tweeted a video typing “positions” on a keyboard, then updating her website to include a countdown, and finally releasing a short snippet that matched the one from September. The cover art-a shot of Grande from her mouth down posed in a miniskirt and sweater combo-was also released yesterday. 

 To most, this all could seem like a generic way of announcing a new song, but fans can tell she’s much more in control. Even the single artwork is simple and doesn’t even show her whole face, proving just how recognizable she is from her signature ponytail and her lips. This time around, there’s only a one week gap between the lead single and album, something that most record labels wouldn’t allow for just any artist. The lack of promotion leading up to this release implies that Ariana doesn’t need any help from her team, the radio, or anyone to prove that her work is successful. It’s exciting to see the perfect and polished Ariana Grande, who is constantly being watched and told what to do, doing things on her own time. She’s releasing the music she wants when she wants, which is in my opinion, a telltale sign of a talented and well-respected artist. 

Thank U, Next and Sweetener showcased two very different sides of her vocal range and ability, yet were equally real, addictive, and incredibly successful. Releasing two albums within eight months of each other was far from typical for singers in her genre and was a bold move. However, after winning her first Grammy for Sweetener and being nominated in multiple categories for Thank U, Next, and occupying the top three spots on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart, it was clear that the Sweetener/Thank U Next era was the new peak of her career and solidified her place in music. Now, all eyes are on her to see if she’ll be able to outdo herself with album six. We’re in a new era now, and I have a good feeling that “Positions” is our first taste of her most authentic album yet. Stay tuned!