Ariana Grande’s “Positions” is Great, but It’s No “thank u, next”: The Perez Review

Ariana Grande has done it again, releasing a consistently well made album in a short amount of time, but does it live up to her past projects?

Last night, Grande released sixth studio album Positions. The album comes quickly after previous album thank u, next, just three months short of being two years old. Thank u, next was released eight months after her fourth studio album Sweetener, so it seems Grande is pumping out album after album. 

Releasing albums so closely together can be dangerous as one album might become overshadowed or the albums are rushed, so they are not up to a certain standard of quality. With Grande however, this is not the case. 

Both previous albums were well produced and thank u, next was a triumph for Grande, being a huge commercial success with critical acclaim. Positions follows right in line, being well produced and does not sound rushed. The only difference is, Positions is not receiving the same amount of critical acclaim. 

The album is by no means bad and is definitely an enjoyable listen, but it does somewhat fail to live up to the powerhouse that is thank u, next. It is also receiving some criticism for Grande not changing things up and sticking to a formulated pattern. 

Saying Positions doesn’t live up to thank u, next  is an entirely understandable statement, but the notion that she has not changed anything in her sound is a bit harder to believe. 

In Grande’s early discography she had an exclusively pop sound that evolved with each release and then began experimenting with other influences, primarily R&B, on her third album Dangerous Woman

Following Dangerous Woman, in her next two albums she had a pop, R&B blend, more heavily R&B in thank u, next, with emotionally vulnerable lyrics. Positions does evolve containing a heavy R&B sound, abandoning the structure of radio friendly pop music, and classical composition and strings. 

Grande has previously explored and alluded to sexual content in her music before, but stayed generally PG-13. Positions is more upfront and explicit about the sexual content she covers, but the album is not entirely sex themed, it also contains self positive lyrics and bright love tracks. 

On initial listen, the album may leave you wanting more because it is not overtly pop with a loud, upbeat sound. Upon digesting the album though, you realize it’s not supposed to be a pop radio album, the sound is intentionally chill and brings more focus to what she is saying. 

The mellowed out, chill vibes of the album does not make the album sad or not fun, there are more than plenty playful tracks such as “34 + 35,” “just like magic,” “my hair,” and title track “positions.” 

So, Grande does mix things up lyrically and sound wise, but it is agreeable that there is a certain pattern Grande has in her music that she hasn’t seemed to escape. When listening to Positions, you can tell that the album most likely flowed out of Grande like a smooth stream of conscience, so this could explain why there is somewhat of a formulated style to her music. She may be doing so unintentionally. 

Whether this is a bad thing or not is debatable, the critics say yes, but of course fans will fight you back to the end of time. Having a certain style or formula to your craft is not the end of the world, humans are creatures of habit. The only issue is when it becomes consistently noticeable by audiences, which Grande is starting to suffer from. 

It is safe to say that the quality of her projects, how rapidly they are released, and that this particular album doesn’t really contain any skips, makes up for the pattern she has fallen into and makes it a little bit less noticeable, just not forgettable. 

All things considered, Positions is a great album. It does not exceed thank u, next as that is more than arguably the highlight of Grande’s career thus far. The album features a fresh sound using both R&B and classical as its most prominent influences and contains both a level of playfulness and seriousness simultaneously.  

Positions feels like Grande’s “positive album” and “sexual awakening album” that most female artists historically go through and is done very tastefully for being as explicit as it is, meaning it feels more organic than purposefully trying to be sexual. 

The Guardian has given Positions a 3 out of 5 stars and multiple other publications have given it equal acclaim and criticism. Pitchfork has yet to review the album, but as for the Perez Review it is a 8.5 out of 10. 

Positions is available on all music streaming platforms.

The Perez Review is a music review column written by Elijah Perez.

The Perez Review ratings:

1.0-3.9 = Poor/Bad

4.0-6.9= Decent

7.0-8.9= Good

9.0-10= Explementary