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The Daily Tar Heel

"Positions" does it all and so does Ariana Grande

Madison Ward, staff writer. Photo courtesy of Madison Ward.

Pop sensation Ariana Grande isn’t afraid to boldly confront the confusing cross-section of love and lust. "Positions," Grande’s third album in two years, is an exploration of a young woman’s sensual side, with songs openly addressing our generation’s attitudes toward sex, and packing the track list with infinite intimate innuendoes. You’re going to want to take notes.

A heady mix of thirsty thrillers and grinding R&B, "Positions" colors the rainbow of human emotions and desires through the lens of life in the 2020s. Her girl-power jams are filled with flirty but feminist phrases, and Grande makes it clear she is a confident woman who won’t let social media haters influence her choices or “positions.” 

The album opens with the song “shut up,” a booming f-you to Grande’s critics. Grande isn’t asking for your opinion, so stay out of her business and “keep opinions muted for the hell of it,” as Grande politely purrs in the song. 

Next up is a track you’ll find tough to stop singing, “34+35,” and it’s not as sweet and innocent as Grande’s angelic voice may sound. Spoiler: Do the math. 

Another album standout is “motive,” featuring SoundCloud breakout and female rapper Doja Cat. A standard fusion of pop melodies and hip-hop bridge, “motive” transcends the tired genre with a chorus so empowering and uplifting, you can’t resist singing along. Doja Cat’s cadence is catchy as hell, and it crams a lifetime of love and loss in 30 seconds. Grande takes the listener on a journey to discover what a lover expects you to do when you’re into each other, so take notes for your budding quarantine romance and ask yourself, “what would Ari do?” 

Grande continues spreading the love with superstars The Weeknd and Ty Dolla $ign in a pair of slow burners, “off the table” and “safety net.” If you’re feeling frisky on a fall night, cue up these two tracks. After all, it’s cuffing season, Tar Heels.

“love language” is an infectious up-tempo jam that quickly made its way onto my repeat list. Grande shows the range of her spellbinding soprano in a Mariah-in-her-prime. And you can’t forget about the star of the show: the song “positions” itself for its elegant strings, catchy beat and stimulating lyrics. 

Grande brings her young adult perspective to “positions, with double entendres filling the song. She sings, “Boy, I'm tryna meet your mama on a Sunday / Then make a lotta love on a Monday (Ah, ah) / Never need no (No), no one else, babe / ’Cause I'll be / Switchin' them positions for you." 

From a lyrical perspective, the album appears to be an introspective examination of her lover and her struggles to navigate the rules of love without risking too much. Grande reveals the travails of romance in your twenties while trying to calculate the quotient of vulnerability and dominance without getting hurt. 

To reinforce this uniquely feminine challenge, the “positionsmusic video is full of feminist overtones, with Grande portrayed as taking over the White House and becoming president while making her cabinet women-only. Grande beautifully “switches positions” with the majority of males that traditionally rule, proving a woman is more than capable of doing anything a man can. Signing legislation never looked so good with Grande wielding the pen, and her Vogue-approved outfits mix smart with sexy.

Grande’s raunchy but refined record is a welcome shift from her previous “thank u, next” phase that topped the world of pop music with a mainly superficial premise. Grande uses her voice to share her personal life, traumas and relationships, and "Positions" is as memorable as her two previous albums. The pop queen leaves an indelible message on "Positions:" she is daring and shameless in proclaiming who she is. 

In the current “WAP” era of music, more women artists are proving their independence through their art and activism. Grande’s music has evolved since her early days on Nickelodeon, and her experience and maturity ring out in her latest work. "Positions" proves Grande is limber enough to evolve as an artist and flexible enough to create a feminist album both sexy and impactful. 


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