Ariana Grande is certainly no stranger to the spotlight as her last two albums shattered record after record as she navigated her way through personal trauma in master strokes.
Grande's album “Sweetener,” dropped in August 2019, found the artist defiantly joyous and experimental while coping with the Manchester Arena Bombing that followed her concert May 22, 2017. "Thank U, Next,” released just six months later, revealed the scars left behind in her most mature work to date.
With Grande’s sixth studio album, “Positions,” released Oct. 23, she happily falls into a raunchy celebration, moving forward from the past with a confident smile. It's nice to hear her so perky and full of life and the echoes of the hopeful girl from her debut album “Yours Truly” mixed with the precision of the woman she's become.
Most of the tracks focus on her new relationship with Dalton Gomez, embodying the “hot girl summer” energy that has taken over the rap industry.
In her song "34+35," she sings, “If I put it quite plainly/Just gimme them babies,” brazenly displaying her sexual desires and comfortability before one of the album’s most infectious choruses.
Another highlight is "Love Language", an irresistible, disco-era banger with an electrifying string section sure to summon the feverishly romantic side of you.
However, within all the giddiness, Grande still wrestles with the fears that come with putting so much trust in those initial sparks. “Am I enough to keep your love?/When I’m old and stuff, will you still have a crush?” she questions in the song "Six Thirty" over a set of thumping drum kicks.
The following track,"‘Safety Net," featuring Ty Dolla $ign, who scores the best feature, is the most emotionally potent on the album as she admits, “I’ve never been this scared before.” It’s a track about confronting the potential of being hurt as a result of getting too close to someone and pairs wonderfully amongst the slew of lovesick jams.
Unfortunately, not every emotion lands as gracefully. The opener "Shut Up" is a worthy sentiment following all that she's endured but feels stranded next to its contemporaries, as lost and wispy as the chorus itself. "POV," the album’s closer, suffers a similar fate, feeling more like a reject from her previous album, “Dangerous Woman,” than the contemplative cherry on top it wants to be.
Besides Ty Dolla $ign, the other features come across pretty lackluster. The Weeknd tries to recreate the magic of smash hit "Love Me Harder" on the new track "Off the Table" but delivers a sleepy feature over toothless lyrics. Doja Cat feels out-of-place on "Motive," a fun, if simplistic, piece of electro-house.
There is a part of me that misses the left-field surprises infused throughout her last two projects: the bizarre Pharrel William adlibs on "Sweetner" or the gorgeous orchestral break that drops into a heavy trap outro on "Bad Idea."
I wish the pinpoint production would give way to a more unpredictable playing field at times, especially since Grande is deeper within her R&B sound than ever before.
In the middle of such difficult times, this record is full of good vibes, something in such short supply these days. With an artist as compelling and meticulous as herself, it's hard to not be swept up in all the fun.