By Aidan Judge
The princess of pop has officially made her solo comeback.
Just less than two weeks ago, the acclaimed singer-songwriter Ariana Grande announced that her sixth studio album, positions, would be released by the end of the month, and would be preceded by a single of the same name, which was released on Friday, October 23rd.
The much-anticipated album from Grande has been rumored since the early summer, with Twitter posts, track snippets and leaked song titles circulating the internet.
Fans are more than eager for a new project from Grande after the massive success of her last studio album, thank u, next, which was released in February 2019. The album saw legendary musical records shattered, such as Grande earning the top three spots on the Billboard Hot 100 simultaneously, a record that had not been achieved since the peak popularity of the Beatles in 1964. The tour of the album was equally successful, playing over 100 shows and grossing nearly 150 million dollars.
So, how does Grande’s new single, positions, fare with her previous discography? Is the princess of pop’s musical charm still intact?
Well, not exactly. In fact, Grande might actually be regressing instead of progressing with her music.
“positions” is simultaneously quintessential Grande while also being like nothing in Grande’s previous discography at all. Normally, this would be a compliment, but in this case, I’m using it as a criticism of Grande.
The song adopts a much more R&B sound, a genre hop Grande has been rumored to take for quite some time now. The production of the track is very lush and relaxed, but still manages to maintain a catchy and upbeat tempo. One could say that the track is a hybrid of both pop and R&B, and it actually has a very pleasant sound. The chorus of the song is quite the earworm.
Lyrically, however, the track leaves a lot to be desired. Most of the lyrics feel uninspired and bland, a criticism that I have of Grande’s previous discography as well.
I especially have an issue with the lyrics of the chorus. For many years, Grande has been a prominent feminist figure, advocating for women’s rights and equality for women in the music industry. However, it seems Grande has undone all of that progressive activism with the borderline misogynistic lyrics presented in the chorus. Here’s what the chorus says:
That I won’t do, switchin’ for you
Initially, I was fine with these lyrics and thought it was just some fun wordplay. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized how counterproductive and disappointing it is to hear these lyrics from Grande. The idea of being submissive to a man and “jumping through hoops” for someone is shocking to hear from Grande, who has openly denounced the concept of being tied to a man and doing what a man says in the past. The “cookin’ in the kitchen” lyrics feel particularly behind the times as well, leaving a lot to wonder about the message Grande is trying to send here.
As for the rest of the lyrics, they’re fine. A lot of them are generic and repetitive (which is an unfortunate staple in pop music, so you can’t really criticize Grande too hard in that regard).
Vocally, Grande sounds excellent. With as iconic of a voice as she has, it’s hard to miss with her in terms of the vocals department. Towards the end of the song, Grande does a signature whistle note, a fan favorite. However, there is one criticism of the vocals that I have: diction.
Grande’s diction has always been….poor, to say the least. A lot of Grande lyrics are often misinterpreted or misheard due to the singer’s tendency to muffle and jumble her words when singing, and this song is no exception. I had to physically look up the lyrics of the song afterwards to make sure I heard everything correctly, and it turns out that I had misheard quite a bit.
The song also has a music video to go with it, as pretty much all lead singles off of studio albums do. The video is actually quite nice- it features Grande as the president of the United States, switching her positions throughout the day and doing different tasks in the White House. The video uses a lot of creative transitions and stylistic choices throughout in order to make quite a visually appealing companion to the song. After watching the video, Grande’s message is much clearer, but it still feels like there is a disconnect between the song and the video. Having these empowering scenes of her taking over tasks usually done by a man doesn’t really connect with the stereotypical lyrics in the song. It almost feels like the video was made for a different song.
Overall, positions (the song) is definitely not Grande’s best work, albeit not her worst, either. Although the song has a nice composition and strong vocals, the lyrics severely drag it down and create one of the more forgettable songs in Grande’s discography. In a word, positions is disappointing. It’s a step backwards for Grande, and leaves a lot to be desired. Grande’s sixth studio album positions will be available Friday, October 30th.