Ariana Grande: Positions review – Big orgy of breathless R&B songs

Fri, Oct 30, 2020, 08:50

   
 

Album:
Positions

Artist:
Ariana Grande

Label:
Republic

Genre:
Pop

The year is 2020. Touching is banned. Any skin-on-skin contact must be reported to the bureau. Kissing can kill you. While all of this is going on, Ariana Grande, the singer who never seems to rest, is having a lot of sex.

From the subtle – “Baby, pardon my French but could you speak in tongues?” she implores on Love Language – to the ridiculous – “It means I want to 69 with you,” she adlibs on 34 +35 – her sixth album is one big orgy of breathless R&B songs and idle innuendos. And you know what? Fair play. Get it where you can.

Using her big voice to whisper through songs that flip your expectations with tempo and ferocity, Positions is a mellow but upfront affair. The title track is a not-so-coy run through of her flexibility (“Cookin’ in the kitchen and I’m in the bedroom, I’m in the Olympics, way I’m jumpin’ through hoops”).

Motive, her collaboration with Doja Cat, samples a muffled disco bounce while she cross-examines/terrorises a potential lover before she “leads him on” and, over undulating, southern California hip-hop beats, My Hair is a soulful and simmering guide in working her trademark ponytail the way she likes.

Just as Janet Jackson does, there’s an element of control Grande plays out in her sexuality. The fact that there’s a song called Nasty – an X-rated, lo-fi R&B song – in this canon is no mistake.

The 27-year-old Floridian has a hyper form of success. A chart star since 2013, her last three albums – 2019’s Thank U, Next, 2018’s Sweetener and 2016’s Dangerous Woman – hold some of the most thrilling songs from the last five years but they also demonstrate an admirable sense of perseverance. In 2017, a bomb went off at a Grande concert in Manchester, killing 23 fans.

In response, she openly shares her grief while rush-releasing pop songs that not only shake up the genre but shatter streaming records that she previously set. She displays a remarkable strength in character by being so generous with her emotions.

Wearing her heart on her sleeve just as much as her carnal desires, Grande reveals carefully thought-out vulnerabilities on Six Thirty, Off the Table, her song with The Weeknd, and Safety Net, which features Ty Dolla Sign.

Working delicate anxieties into casual and real deal relationships, Grande is still working through the “baggage” she addressed on 2019’s Ghostin but the abundance of joy, love and lust that bursts through these songs show that she’s getting there.

Even though bangers are scarce on the ground, Positions solidifies Grande as one of pop’s leading voices.