Positions is the record of an RnB superstar reflecting on their superstardom.


Credit: Republic Records / Ariana Grande

Verdict: A safe, charming release that takes stock of Grande’s current head space.

There was once a time when I was not an Ariana Grande fan. I had little care for her brand of trap-infused, laid-back RnB. But after releasing Sweetner and thank u, next back to back between Summer 2018 and Winter 2019, two frankly stunning records in their own right, I joined the bandwagon. This is an artist who currently has some of the best writers and producers in the industry right now, and she’s owning it.

So where to go to after all the success those albums brought her? Positions suggests she’s not quite ready to move on from what she built on her most recent releases. Indeed, whereas the lead singles from thank u, next had her asserting a personal dominance with prowess, this newest album is a pause. She’s processing past heartbreak, cherishing new love and deciding on who one of the biggest music stars on the planet wants to be.

“…frankly, her singing about sex in the most tongue-in-cheek and honest way absolutely rules.”

Positions doesn’t evolve considerably from a musical standpoint from her current brand of RnB, but lyrically, it sees Grande at her most explicit and word-driven. Tracks like ’34+35′, ‘Hair’ and ‘Nasty’ almost feel weird on first listen because this is the most venturous she’s been in this regard, but frankly, her singing about sex in the most tongue-in-cheek and honest way absolutely rules. Just listen to those Disney-friendly strings in the background of those tracks too – they’re a perfect touch of irony.

Where the record succeeds is in balancing those more playful moments with sadder tones. ‘Off The Table’ features The Weeknd’s classic longing vocals, as the two sing about struggling to find romance, whilst ‘Safety Net’ tackles trust issues head on. Unwilling to let one particular emotion rule the album, Positions is a pallette of personal exploration.

And even if the sound doesn’t evolve remarkably, it still offers distinction within her discography. It throws in strings in acute doses to add charm and class, whilst much of the instrumentation is blended together with soft production to deliver warm, laid back vibes.

Some will be looking for the bigger hits of her previous releases, and its something that she quite deliberately avoids here. Save for its catchy title tune, this is not a record looking to serve bangers (save for Doja Cat-feature ‘Motive’, which pops with 2000s nu disco goodness). The gorgeous hooks I love her for are still found a-plenty, but on a greater scale, it feels like Grande proving to herself that one of pop’s most most popular artists is capable of delivering a less chart-focused album.

“Grande convinces you that every track on here is a necessary exploration of her emotions,”

Seeing her take this less revolutionary route leaves me hoping her next album will see her branch out into something more boundary pushing in the future, but its clear that she has a need to share her current headspace with her listeners. Grande has always been good at selling the idea of ‘Ariana Grande’ and all the traits her artistry entails, but this in particular feels like a defined moment of character development; here she is laying out what she wants from her lover, her highs and lows, and her mental debate over who she wants to be.

With Positions only looking to prove something to itself as opposed to anyone else, it ends up being a satisfying release that isn’t trying to wow you. Whilst its biggest innovations in terms of her discography boil down to dirtier lyrics, it’s also wonderfully laid back, soothing at points and immensely charming at others. Grande convinces you that every track on here is a necessary exploration of her emotions, and the genuine nature of that gives the record solid authenticity.

Ariana Grande is taking stock of who and what her superstardom is, as well as who she is behind the artistry. If it’s nothing more than a record to prove that she can evolve personally independent of her sound, then she’s delivered a class act. Here’s an artist taking time to deal with what’s on her mind and sharing the enjoyment writing music about that gives her.

Score: 7.0/10

Munro Page

Munro Page is a music blogger and former student radio host based in Cardiff, Wales. He likes: thrift stores, cooking and parrots. He dislikes: chain restaurants, the M25 and Simply Red.