Ariana Grande “Positions (Deluxe)" review — Do we really want something more?
5 months after the release of her 6th album, “Positions", Ariana Grande put out the deluxe version with 5 bonus tracks, keeping the charm of the original work, while adding more fuel to the fun. However, compared with her previous works, “Positions" looks like a step back in which she took the safe route.
While “Sweetener” tackled the defiant joy of being alive, celebrated women and femininity, “thank u, next" took a turn as Ariana dealt with breakups, mental issues, and her own feelings (which can be related in many cases), “Positions" is the love letters to romance, with intimacy and raunchiness — becoming the most lyrically risqué record of hers.
Musically, “Positions" came close to the debut album “Yours Truly" as she comfortably utilized 90s R&B and hip-hop, along with disco and boo-wops to heighten the loving tension and erotica in the lyrics. R&B and sex sound like a good combination, turns out to be a safe game as the production made the whole record sounds like there are too many fillers, while the single-worthy tracks become generic after several listens.
The album starts with “shut up”, an MGM strings-led opener that centralizes Ariana's breathy vocal. “How you be using your time? / You be so worried ’bout mine”, she sings about how critics and the media focus on her life lately, giving us an update that she does not give away energy to care about the words of others, so “maybe you should shut up". This track stays separate from the rest, as we come to the next one, “34+35” — an oddly-titled track filled with sexual puns and subtle innuendos. She playfully expressed the raunchy intercourse towards the end of the song with unapologetic lyrics and enthusiasm in her voice. “34+35” might be the one that we can tell she truly enjoyed recording it, as she took control of her vocal and let loose the techniques, while still delivered an immaculate and sultry performance. The remix with Doja Cat and Megan Thee Stallion also adds more fun, giving the nod to the empowering “W.A.P.” by Cardi B and Megan herself.
Another outstanding point of the album belongs to Ty Dolla $ign-assisted “safety net" as Ariana gets vulnerable, “Don’t know if I should fight or fly. But I don't mind”. Thank God that this one does not fall to the stereotype of a typical rap/sung record that she has done many times before. “safety net" becomes a sensual duet as Ty Dolla $ign’s vocal matches perfectly with Ariana's, interrogates the insecurities and eventually the risk of continuing the relationship. Another duet is “off the table", which was expected to be the second “Love Me Harder", falls flat as the song flows through and leaves no trace. The appearance of The Weeknd in this track (or the whole album) is considered to be unnecessary.
A remarkable moment in “Positions" belongs to “my hair", in which Ariana showcases the versatility vocally with falsetto, matching with the neo-soul production. Among the deluxe bonus songs, “test drive" is the disco-fused with dancefloor beats and vogue-y. This song can be seen as an extension of “motive" with Doja Cat, which also gives away a twinkling, gay-twitter-craze vibe.
Many tracks in the album clearly exhale hesitancy and even a lack of surprises. The overuse of strings in “obvious", “pov", “off the table", and more, does not make the album become orchestral but instead, a heavy listen (or sometimes strange). Many understated moments (“six thirty", “west side", “pov", “main thing") makes the album fade with zero climaxes. If Ariana wants to interpolate sex and innuendos, at least make it all-out.
Maybe “Positions" is not the expected output from Ariana Grande, as it underperformed her previous discography. The deluxe tracks were added unessentially to the record, somehow breaking the coherence of the original tracklist. However, she still keeps the charm and sparkle of R&B/disco in these tracks, which deserves recognition. As this record paves the way for the new chapter to come, we can still expect better efforts from the songstress.
“Positions (Deluxe)” is now available on all platforms.