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December 4, 2020

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Icon music review – Positions by Ariana Grande

Positions is a solid effort for Ariana Grande, although there is nothing new here

Reviewed by Craig Hoffman
Positions is the sixth studio album by American singer and actress Ariana Grande, released on Oct. 30, 2020, by Republic Records.

The album builds on the R&B and trap pop elements of Grande’s earlier efforts, Sweetener (2018) and Thank U, Next (2019). There is also a good amount of hip hop, neo-soul, and funk featured on Positions. 

Grande started her showbiz career at the age of fifteen in the 2008 Broadway musical 13. She is also well-known for her role as Cat Valentine in the Nickelodeon television shows Victorious and Sam & Cat. As a singer, her debut album Yours Truly reached number one on the US Billboard 200 chart in 2013.

Grande dives into themes of sex and romantic love on her latest effort. Doja Cat, the Weeknd, and Ty Dolla Sign appear as guest collaborators. Positions received generally favorable reviews from music critics, most of whom agreed that Grande “does not break any new ground” with it. 

“Positions” is a pop and R&B song featuring plucked guitar and violin. Annie Zaleski of The A.V. Club wrote that the song is “a tune about settling down while preserving your sense of self.” 

The video is unfortunately much more creative than the song. The themes and music style feel mostly uninspired. Still, the album does have some stellar moments. 

“POV” is an R&B ballad with a quiet arrangement accompanied by cello and viola. It is the best composition on the album. Grande will never be mistaken for Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston, but this song is a Grammy Award contender. It’s a shame the entire album is not at this level. But other music critics have liked, if not loved, Positions on the whole.

Chris DeVille of Stereogum lauded the “impeccable” vocals but downplayed the “least stimulating” production. He dubbed Positions as a solid Grande album but deemed it a premature “disappointment" in comparison to Sweetener and Thank U, Next. Fans of the artist seemed to disagree with this assessment.

Positions debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 chart, with 174,000 units moved during its first week. It became the fourth album by a female artist to reach number one in 2020. Successful records by Selena Gomez, Lady Gaga, and Taylor Swift also did the same this year. 

There were 173 million on-demand streams of individual album tracks in the week ending Nov. 14. It is the second-largest streaming week for a non-R&B/hip-hop or Latin album in 2020. Grande also has the quickest accumulation of three number one albums by a female artist in more than ten years.

Final Take: Positions is a solid effort for Ariana Grande, although there is nothing new here. The artist would be wise to consider slowing down to create more complete and complex albums in the future. She’s too talented to spend 41 minutes sounding like a horny teenager. 

Download “POV” and listen to the rest when it hits the radio unless you are a huge Ariana Grande fan. 3.5/5.  

Craig Hoffman is a music graduate of Ohio Northern University and The University of Akron School of Music. He also serves as the Icon’s Japan correspondent.