by Grace Whitman ’22 A&E Staff
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 has been a year of surprise album releases and shortened musical promotions. On Oct. 30, Ariana Grande released her sixth studio album titled Positions only two weeks after her initial album announcement. In typical years, an artist would make an album announcement well before its release and would utilize radio and social media promotions to popularize it. Following in the footsteps of artists like Taylor Swift, Drake, and Childish Gambino, who all released surprise albums in 2020, Grande kept fans excited to stream Positions on its release date by beginning promotions just a couple of weeks early.
The 14-song collection consists of more R&B and ’90s rhythmic pop songs than Grande›s most recent releases. The themes of the album are displayed consistently throughout, making it quite cohesive.
A week before the album release, Grande released the title track and accompanying music video. “positions” is a smitten love song built around pop, R&B, and trap beats. Premiering just a few days before Election Day, the music video features Grande as the commander-in-chief, effortlessly balancing her personal life with her professional one. Grande takes on various roles that create an impressive and empowering feminist video. She channels particular fashion icons, including former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, in the wardrobe throughout the video. Positions features guest collaborators Doja Cat, The Weeknd, and Ty Dolla $ign. “motive,” featuring Doja Cat, is lyrically simplistic and repetitive but has the potential to be a catchy radio hit. “off the table” with The Weeknd comes six years after their first collaboration, “Love Me Harder.” In reference to their 2014 song, The Weeknd sings, “I can love you harder than I did before.” In “off the table,” Grande questions whether she is ready for a potential relationship, while The Weeknd reassures her, saying that he can be patient and she can move on to a new era.
The final collaboration on the album features Ty Dolla $ign on the seventh song, “safety net,” in which he and Grande sing about the risks that they will take for a relationship. This soft song complements the rest of the album with its theme of moving forward.
Given that Grande’s previous two albums smashed the Billboard charts, Positions had a large act to follow. Ultimately, this album lacks a major hit like “7 rings” from Grande’s 2019 project, thank you, next, and “God is a woman” from Sweetener.
Although many music critics praise Grande’s vocals, there has been a large amount of criticism for the album’s lyricism and production. For an album recorded in her home studio during quarantine, Positions is a professional and solid piece of art. That being said, each song sounds the same, there are no memorable hooks, and there are far too many words packed into 14 relatively short songs.
Even if Positions is not her most comprehensive work, Grande’s star power and dedicated fanbase will boost her album to the top of the charts.