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Switching ‘positions:’ Ariana Grande’s latest album is a sensual fantasy

Ariana Grande’s latest album, “positions,” is an enigmatic, provocative, vocal dream where Grande is attempting to solidify her status as an R&B singer. Put simply, this album is sexy. It reveals an Ari who is less at conflict with herself. The Ari in this album knows what she wants. Grande’s trademark velvety voice is both soothing and stimulating as these tracks blend her pop prowess to tight R&B beats. “positions,” both the single and the album, has easily been topping charts across the country and the world since its initial release.

Grande is known for her cute-yet-spunky, baby-yet-sexy style and this album is no exception. “positions” is overtly sexual, as tracks like “34+35,” “nasty,” “six-thirty” and “love language” have some racy lyrics, like in the chorus of “34+35” where she sings “fuck me ‘til the daylight, 34+35.” In “nasty” she sings of her “pussy designed for you.” 

With string instruments that echo her older works like “Honeymoon Avenue” in the following song on the album, “34+35” resonates with her evolution as an artist. A reminder of her previous works is present, but not distracting from the imagination of her new songs. 

The album is a departure sexually and spiritually for Grande. Songs like “just like magic” offer a glimpse into Ari’s daily life. Barely two minutes long, the song is an anthem for manifestation and a meditation on meditation, if you will. The idea of “manifesting” is a fairly popular concept circulating among Gen Z and millennials, which is essentially speaking one’s wants, goals and dreams into existence by writing them down and thinking about them, thereby attracting and magnetizing the energy and experiences you want. 

She sings “I get everything I want ‘cause I attract it, just like magic.” In this sense, “positions” has a subtle spiritual maturity from her previous works. Grande has always reached for the cosmic sublime in her work, in songs like “God is a woman” which seems to be a catalyst of her explosive success.

By starting off this album with angelic, feathery layered voices in the song “shut up,” Grande works her middle finger to her haters, in the most sublime voice possible. Grande’s blend of pop synth to tight rhythms bounded by her masterful harmonies allows her sassy-angelic attitude to shine through. She shows off her vocals in her high pitch scream in “my hair” that echoes a younger Mariah Carey and has the oozing grandeur of R&B artist Snoh Allegra. The song is particularly clever lyrically, given the talk about her hair by the media and her fans. She sings, “I usually don’t let people touch it, but tonight you get a pass.” Her hair is a special icon in itself; it is coveted and she knows this.

The album spotlights a more matured and self-assured Ari, one that doesn’t need to be a “sad bitch,” or “savage” as cited in her bop “7 rings.” She knows she can and does it all; hence, switching “positions” in the titular upbeat, seductive track. The song came out first as a single, which came with a music video featuring Ari—in a parallel universe—serving as President of the United States. 

The video transitions from her in “the kitchen” to “in the bedroom,” but most notably at the desk in the Oval Office. Grande’s embodiment as the president in this video, which was released during the high-tensioned period right before the 2020 presidential election, makes a powerful statement. Grande, who openly encouraged her followers to vote for now president-elect Joseph Biden and vice president-elect Kamala Harris, boldly meshes her political beliefs with her art. Although the election was in the background of our lives when this was released, now that the election is over, Grande’s decision to make her art politically relevant remains tasteful, timeless and even more powerful, considering Harris made history as the first Black and Asian American woman in office as vice president. 

“motive,” Grande’s song with Doja Cat is one of the more edgy, pop-leaning tracks on this album, while “pov” is a heartfelt song with a slower tempo. There’s an impressive range in this album that reflects Grande stepping further into the collective imagination of her discography by leaning into her sexuality and spirituality. Stream “positions,” if you haven’t already—it might be just the pick me up you need in these dreary times. 

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