Two years have passed since Sweetener was introduced to the world, which showcased Ariana Grande’s pop roots blended with a fresh, new R&B, hip-hop vibe – a welcome surprise for many at the time. Marking a new era for her, Grande became a more reflective and mature artist, and she draws upon this sentiment yet again in 2020
Positions, released the day before Halloween, can’t decide if it’s a trick or a treat. The esteemed features from The Weeknd, Ty Dolla $ign and Doja Cat help Grande to draw out her R&B roots, arguably more than ever before, but, despite her vocal talent, the blandness of the music makes it little more than a middle-of-the-road affair.
Wrote whilst in lockdown with new boyfriend Dalton Gomez, the record has a mellow R&B vibe, with tracks that feel more thoughtful, featuring lyrics like: “I’ve never been this scared before / feelings I just can’t ignore,” and, “heaven sent you to me / I’m just hopin’ I don’t repeat history,” showcasing how this new relationship has impassioned her music.
It is with these deep and considered lyrics where the album shines, securing it as a classic Grande offering. In ‘Safety Net’,her collaboration with Ty Dolla $ign, she sings, “You’re making me forget my past, never thought I’d feel like that again / I came to peace with my path”. Here, the lyrics are melancholic and vulnerable reflections on past love, plus it’s also a real vibe.
Conversely, tracks like the raunchy second offering, ‘34+35’ (do the math), make your ears stick-up as its racy lyrics are juxtaposed by pure and nostalgic strings. It’s a true female empowerment anthem, but the excitement of this track will only fade away with time.
There’s something lacking with Positions that means it shines less brightly than some of her previous releases, it could be the lack of a signature pop belter that we’ve become accustomed to with Grande. Many of the tracks just blend into an indistinct and tame R&B flow,never reaching a satisfying climax, but then the album may not be here to appease listeners of mainstream music.
Whilst lyrically Grande shines on Positions, the album’s boring musical composition hinders the potential of what could have been the most significant album of 2020.
Image: Republic Records