Ariana Grande’s “Positions”: A Blend of R&B and Pop Exploring Complicated Relationships

Esther Fu and Eman Abdurezak

Falcon Rating: 4/5

Positions, Ariana Grande’s sixth studio album, featuring Doja Cat, The Weeknd, and Ty Dolla $ign was recently dropped to high praise. This 14-track pop/R&B record documents Grande’s healing process and new beginnings in her relationship. The singer’s past discography consists overwhelmingly of pop music; while recent albums such as Sweetener and thank u, next have started to incorporate R&B influenced styles. 

On October 14th, Grande announced her plans for the album via Twitter, stating “I can’t wait to give you my album this month.” Shortly after the record’s publication, every song occupied the first 14 ranks on Spotify’s United States Top 50 list. “positions” hit number one on Billboard’s Hot 100 list.

Here’s our breakdown of each song, by theme:

The album opens with string instrumentals, which introduces the first song, “shut up.” The use of altered notes in the chorus adds an interesting touch to the nonchalant nature of the song. Additionally, the simple instrumental emphasizes the complex harmonies and layering of vocals. In an interview with radio show host Zach Sang, Grande agrees with Dan Zolot’s statement that “[she’s] saying, here’s me, here’s my album, these are my stories, if you don’t like what I have to say, just worry about something else.” 

 “34+35” and “nasty” combat ideologies that women should not vocalize their experiences with intimacy. Grande was heavily criticized for discussing these mature topics and spoke about how she was afraid that these tracks would, “distract the sweetness and vulnerability that is the rest of the album.” Despite her worries, the tracks add a light-hearted vibe to the sincerity of the project. The flirtatious “34+35” has a faint trap beat and Disney-esque string instrumental. “nasty” starts with a series of whistle notes, providing a fluid transition from its previous song, “my hair”. 

 “motive” (featuring Doja Cat) and “six-thirty” are the most uneventful and repetitive tracks on the record. In the song, Grande describes the feeling of being skeptical that her significant other does not have any ulterior motives in a relationship. Throughout the chorus of “six-thirty,” Ariana repeats the phrase “are you down?”, questioning if her significant other is “down” to be in a serious relationship. The title was a clever way of conveying this message, as the position of both hands on an analog clock point down at 6:30. 

just like magic,” the fourth track on her album largely discusses manifestation, for Grande believes that it has played a role in her life. This song includes some of the best lyrics on the album, for example, “Good karma, my aesthetic … take my pen and write some love letters to heaven.” She refers to her late ex-boyfriend, rapper Mac Miller, who passed in 2018 from drug overdose.

The record’s most anticipated song, “off the table,” features The Weeknd, who wrote the heartfelt second verse. Although the longest track on the album, it doesn’t feel like it. Its harmonies and rhythm prevent the song from ever getting boring. The artists also collaborated in the 2014 hit, “Love Me Harder.” 

Its harmonies and rhythm prevent the song from ever getting boring.

safety net” featuring Ty Dolla $ign discusses developing trust in a new relationship. This seventh track includes a unique beat and angelic background vocals. The addition of the male artist’s voice seems to naturally fit and adapt to the style of music that he usually produces. This is interesting, seeing it was a mere coincidence that he heard Grande’s unfinished product while working in the same studio.

Unlike the other tracks on the album, “my hair” and “love language” have theatrical elements. During Grande’s time on “Victorious,” her hair became damaged from excessive bleaching and dying. “my hair” is about wanting to show her often concealed natural hair to her partner. The final chorus is impressively done in the whistle register. The eleventh track “love language” is one of the most underrated tracks on the album. Filled with clever lyrics, the song is about Grande’s journey to improve herself for her partner. 

west side,” a vibey R&B song with hip hop elements, is the shortest on the album. The lyrics discuss Grande’s relationship with her significant other. Similarly, in the thirteenth song, “obvious”, Grande expresses how her love for her partner is obvious. The unique rhythms and sweet choruses of these songs are especially enjoyable.

The title track, “positions,” was released on October 23rd along with a music video, strategically put out the day after the presidential debate. The video displays scenes replicating a White House, in which Grande is the president. The scenes juxtapose each other and narrate her statement, “my life is complete and full without you, but I’m happy to add you to it.”

Grande talks about wanting to love and see herself from her partner’s perspective.

Closing with the most vulnerable piece, “pov,” Grande talks about wanting to love and see herself from her partner’s perspective. She expresses that there weren’t many love songs that show this aspect of a relationship. 

Overall, Positions flaunts Grande’s vocal capabilities. Over the course of a decade, her discography has matured; from her very first single “Put Your Hearts Up,” an innocent pop song with lyrics like “We can do anything if we try,” to lyrics as intimate as “Will I ever love the same way again?”, it will be difficult for Grande to top extremely successful projects such as Dangerous Woman and Sweetener. It seems she has created her trademark sound.