In true Supreet fashion on a late Thursday night, I have a glass of red wine in one hand and this week I’m ready to give Positions––the sixth album from Ariana Grande––a spin! The surprise release was announced a little over two weeks ago by Ariana herself and is coming right on the heels of the positions single release on October 23rd. Here’s a track-by-track review based on my first impressions of the album!
“shut up”: Starts on a very nice note, with an orchestral sound––a pleasant surprise, but something Ariana has definitely experimented with before! As usual, Ariana’s vocal delivery is nothing short of perfect, and she sounds angelic even while telling her critics to “shut up.” This is a very nice intro to the album; it’s stripped down on the production, which puts Ariana’s voice in the spotlight among a very classy bed of strings. It almost has a cinematic feel to it––I can picture the instrumental playing over a black and white film!
“34+35”: This is a nice blend of Ariana’s tried and true trap-pop production and current use of strings—this seems to be a new hallmark for her characteristic sound. The song has explicit themes, but the production is so upbeat that it sounds innocent, which produces a nice contrast! The last line is especially cheeky, but for a mature audience, it’s a fun track. This is something I would definitely sing along to in the mirror while getting ready—a little girls’ night out moment!
“motive” (with Doja Cat): Very sultry opening, with a heavy focus on bass—my personal favourite opening so far! This is such a fun cross between an R&B track and modern pop; it’s a mid-tempo song that you can’t help but bob your head to. The chorus is repetitive and so easy to sing along to, it’s impossible not to get hooked. Doja’s feature brings something special to the track—she’s had massive success with her features this year and this is no different. Her voice blends in perfectly with the production and completes the picture.
“just like magic”: A little bit-crusher moment to open the track—super fun and catches your attention right away! Just like the title suggests, this track sounds like something pulled from a dream. Oddly enough, it reminds me of a sonic blend between “R.E.M” from Sweetener and more of the trap-pop sound of thank u, next. Ariana’s vocals here are made to match the atmosphere of the song in a falsetto, and the effect is a song that sounds like it’s carrying you away on a cloud.
“off the table” (with The Weeknd): The first few seconds of the song establish it as a sequel to “Love Me Harder,” off of My Everything, Ariana and The Weeknd’s first collaboration. This is maybe the most toned-down intro that I’ve heard so far on the album, and the string motif carries through here as well. The Weeknd’s voice fits right into the production and the second verse features him with harmonies from Ariana, which layer to produce a beautiful overall effect. This is very much a grown-up version of “Love Me Harder.” I can picture a music video similar to Taylor and Zayn’s “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever”: a very moody, dark-lit mansion with all the typical dramatics.
“six thirty”: A weirdly disjointed, almost robotic opening, but we also see a return of the strings. Ariana’s runs here are just gorgeous—the layering in the vocal production leads to a pillow of beautiful harmonies. For some reason, this song feels oddly nostalgic, as if I’ve experienced what she has. The sunset imagery is also really potent; it feels almost as if you’re watching one on the side of a road by a cliffside, just like a movie cliché.
“safety net” (feat. Ty Dolla $ign): The percussion here is finally a key player rather than supplementing the rest of the track—you can tell this one is going to be rhythmically catchy. Again, like most of the rest of the album, this has a muted sound to it, with production being minimal, but just enough to create a sultry atmosphere. The bridge has a gorgeous moment where Ariana is singing almost a cappella—the overall effect is like giving a voice to the feeling of yearning.
“my hair”: The hazy electric guitar instantly sets the tone for this one. This song sounds a little bit like it could be a sister to “motive.” The trumpet is a very nice touch that distinguishes this track from all the rest. This song really encompasses the essence of a more mature relationship for Ariana. The whistle notes in this are INSANE. Just like my first time listening to “imagine” on thank u, next, my jaw is on the floor.
“nasty”: The opening sounded a little bit like some of the openers on Yours Truly, but the trap-pop immediately comes back into the picture. This is another very explicit track, but unlike “34+35,” this one isn’t as playful and is way more upfront in its meaning, rather than skirting around the message with plays on words. I think this marks the most honest Ariana has been with her sexuality—though she’s been edging towards this in her recent work, this is as blunt as she’s over been and it’s refreshing to see her own up to it rather than drown it in layers of metaphors and double entendres.
“west side”: This has an immediately interesting opening that isn’t like the rest of the album. The vocal production is really well done (as it is on the rest of the album as well) and the layering makes it easy to follow the song from verse to pre-chorus to chorus. This song sounds like comfort––in Ariana’s romantic affairs, in her emotional well-being, and her life in general. Though it’s more of an interlude than an actual song, it creates a nice feeling of content—the subtle kind that shows itself in the small moments.
“love language”: This is the only high energy opening on the album, and even then, it’s still very laid-back compared to typical high energy tracks. The strings bring a fun little element of drama to the table—like a voice of their own. In combination with the piano sprinkled through the song, this creates a really cute vibe. The message is also absolutely lovely—there’s nothing better than a lover who understands the ways in which you communicate and express yourself.
“positions”: This obviously isn’t my first impression of the song because I’ve religiously had it on repeat since its release a week ago. I have to say, the choice to make this the lead single was solid on Ariana’s part. It seamlessly blends into the very muted, elegant production that we see on the rest of the album, and it encompasses the theme of the album, which is essentially about the different facets and aspects of a comfortable, established relationship. This is especially heartwarming given her unfortunately tumultuous love life in recent years.
“obvious”: This sounds like something that could be on those classic “lo-fi beats to chill/study to” playlists. Again, the vocal production is marvellous - the layering works so well for Ariana’s harmonies. This is another cute track that fits in the same lane as “love language.”
“pov”: The sound of running water is very comforting and reminds me a lot of “Thinking Bout You” from Dangerous Woman. This is easily my favourite track on the album—a love letter to her significant other. This is the kind of heartwarming track that produces that quiet joy of being happy for someone else’s happiness. This is a perfect album closer and it shows such a big step from “ghostin” on thank u, next that it’s incredible—Ariana’s made it out of the dark stretch of the night she was in that led to the making of thank u, next.
Overall Impressions: This is Ariana’s most sonically cohesive album—unlike the doo-wop and EDM-pop production that she was popular for at the start of her career, this is a very clear-cut follow-up to 2019’s thank u, next, which was in the same vein of moody, toned-down production and lyricism. Just because Ariana’s brought the production down a few notches doesn’t mean her classical witty lyricism and charm aren’t present—they’re all over the album, as per usual. The string motifs work beautifully across the whole album and make it feel like a complete piece of work, rather than a collection of singles.
The themes in this album are a nice change from the heartbreak that fueled thank, u next. To hear of Ariana being in a comfortable and happy relationship without the input of others or a media blitz is really refreshing and good to see for someone who’s been through so much. She more than deserves this next phase of her life and career.
In terms of favourite Ariana albums, I think it currently sits in a comfortable middle range:
Sweetener > thank u, next > Positions > My Everything > Dangerous Woman > Yours Truly
Favourite Tracks: “pov,” “motive,” “34+35,” “six thirty”
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