Released on October 30, 2020, “Positions” is Grande’s sixth album, following the double-platinum “Thank U, Next” of early 2019. Facing the critical attention of a devoted fan base, “Positions” was set to, as some fans have put it, “save 2020.” In reality, “Positions” will likely be just another blip in an eventful year.
The album opens with a sassy, breathy rebuttal of Grande’s detractors in the form of “shut up.” Largely formulaic and derivative of her previous works, “shut up” sets the tone for the rest of the album: stale and repetitive. The tracks blend into one another, and without a standout phrase, the songs are bitter coffee without “sweetener.” Paradoxically, though Grande dotted “Positions” with explicit lyrics detailing her sex life, she played it safe with the album’s sound. Some songs from “Positions” even sound like unreleased tracks from past albums, lacking the originality and excitement so many enjoyed about “Thank U, Next.” It seems as if Grande is following sonic formulas that brought her past acclaim, but perhaps those very cornerstones are now failing her. To avoid similarly uninspired songs and a lukewarm reception in the future, Grande should play to her greatest strength as an artist: her voice.
Grande is known and celebrated for her incredible vocal range, breath control, and riffs, but “Positions” neglects to highlight these talents. Though certain songs like “my hair” certainly showcase her ear-piercing whistle notes, most others languish at a sing-songy whisper or a rhythmic mumble. At moments when it seems like Grande prepares to hit a powerful whistle note or impressive belt, she retreats into a hazy loop of lyrical tedium and hollow vocals. The lack of defining features in these tracks points to a greater lack at hand: one of meaning. Unlike other albums released by artists during quarantine, “Positions” makes no meaningful commentary on contemporary issues in an unprecedented year. As for the reason Grande released the album, listeners are left asking, as Grande puts it, “Tell me, what’s your motive?”
“Positions” is a mediocre album from an otherwise strong artist. Repetitive and unsatisfying, the album is a let-down for listeners expecting the next “Thank U, Next.” Still, it is thoroughly decent, both mellow enough for late-night listening and energetic enough for a morning routine playlist. Sadly, “Positions” isn’t enough to hold its own against Grande’s other albums. One can only hope that the mediocrity of “Positions” will be a phase, and that Grande will soon return to form.
This album receives a 3/5 for its decent tracks but overall lack of creativity.