The expectations for Ariana Grande’s newest album Positions were almost as high as her whistle tones.
The Grammy-award-winning singer announced early October via social media that she would be releasing her sixth studio album later that month. While many artists have shown off their quarantine-produced works of music, Grande took it to another level with 14 new tracks that left listeners with mixed emotions.
The album’s opening track “Shut Up” is a sonic whirlwind of instrumentals ranging from the plucks of violin strings to a full orchestra. The lighthearted track takes a jab at the haters and is very reminiscent of Grande’s fourth studio album, Sweetener. While some listeners may be content with this, the lack of experimentation in the track is a little disappointing.
The next track, “34+35,” is not about math in the slightest. Grande takes a brutally honest approach with her lyrics as her sexuality becomes a central theme throughout the album with songs such as “Love Language” and “Nasty”. Although the word play is clever, this song has the same issue as “Shut Up” — the instrumentals are so familiar it gives the listener déjà-vu.
Disco is definitely not dead with Grande’s next track “Motive” featuring Doja Cat. The upbeat track has a heavy disco influence, and when combined with Grande’s pop-trap sound, surprises listeners. When it comes to Doja’s verse, the instrumental transitions are smooth and melodic, pairing well with her raspy voice.
In “Off the Table” Grande joins forces with The Weeknd for the second time in this emotional ballad that touches on her struggles with love after Mac Miller’s death. The instrumentals are slow and synth-heavy, with lyrics that make the song all the more powerful. With lines like “Will I ever love somebody the same way again,” Grande expresses doubt about finding love comparable to the one she shared with Miller. The duo even make a point to include the line “I can love you harder than I did before,” which references their first song together, “Love Me Harder.”
The fear of new relationships theme continues in “Safety Net,” the album’s seventh track which features Ty Dolla $ign. Out of the three features on Positions, this song is the strongest, with lyrics that will hit you where it hurts. The harmonious blend of vocals creates a mellow song that listeners will have on repeat.
Grande’s iconic whistle tones return for “My Hair” for some of the most impressive vocals on the whole album. Starting off with mellow guitar strums, the song quickly transitions to a jazzy beat. Grande finishes the song by singing the entire chorus in her high-pitched whistle tones, showing listeners just how much range her voice has.
Sweetener had “Goodnight n Go,” Thank U, Next had “Ghostin,” and Positions has “POV.” Grande never fails to deliver at least one song on each of her albums that completely captivates listeners with ultrasoft instrumentals followed by powerful vocals. The atmospheric track is heavily influenced by R&B, which comes as no surprise given that some of Grande’s biggest influences are artists like Whitney Houston and India Arie.
While certain parts of Positions featured experimental hits with some of the most unexpected genre influences, other tracks felt all too familiar. Although the Sweetener-esque songs were catchy, had they been replaced with more outside of the box tracks, this album could have topped her last.