Saturday, October 31, 2020

Review: Positions • Ariana Grande

Ariana Grande’s force in the music industry has intensified by at least tenfold in the past three years. Doubling her full-length catalog and signing onto high-profile collaborations, she has scored four number one singles in recent history – and despite her systematic release schedule, her newest music somehow sounds more steady than any of her first three records. With her last two records – especially Thank U, Next, her most consistent yet most middle-ground record to this point – she signaled permanent residence in R&B-indebted pop music. But on Positions, her singular focus already shows its fatigue.

Largely downtempo and filled with on-the-nose filthy talk, the album begs to be her sex encyclopedia. The title track – the best offering of the bunch – takes her from the bedroom to the kitchen for a myriad of activities. She requests a more personal touch on “My Hair,” which manages to exercise and showcase her voice unlike another else here, and something without strings on “Nasty.” It’s liberating in theory, sure, but in reality, Positions is merely a spread of monotone streaming-era snacks; each track is just a few minutes of the same slurred vowels and underutilized strings.

On “34+35,” which is (hopefully) more lackluster than the activities it details, Grande ironically declares the mission statement of the record: “You such a dream come true. Make a bitch want to hit snooze.” While she shows tremendous steps forward in recovering from unthinkable circumstances – the terrorist attack at her 2017 Manchester concert, her ex-boyfriend’s fatal overdose, a very public and forever documented rebound relationship – she unfortunately seems to have taken the worst parts of her last record and left the rest behind. Yes, the tactic has made her a hit-maker, but at the price of also becoming the lowest common denominator. Snooze, indeed.

Positions is available now under Republic Records.

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