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“Positions” on Quarantine Romance

Ariana Grande released the music video for “positions,” the first single off her sixth studio album of the same name, on Oct. 22. In muted colors, Grande juggles her presidential position and status as a lover. The themes of love progress throughout the album as Grande becomes more openly vulnerable with love with her trademark airy voice.

Grande’s voice shines against the lush music of “positions,” featuring R&B-pop-trap music full of violins and harmonies. With clean production and an ethereal feel, the album plays smoothly, cleanly narrating Grande’s journey in exploring love physically and emotionally. However, the polished quality comes at the album’s expense. No song stands out from the rest, creating a hazy mix of nighttime blues, pinks, and purples, especially when compared to Grande’s previous releases “thank u, next” and “Sweetener.” Each song sounds very processed, with notes lacking their sparkle and missing the raw quality present in preceding albums. 

Song lengths also lessen the emphasis on any one track, which are all stylized in lowercase. The longest song “off the table” is almost four minutes long, while most other tracks are in the two-minute to three-minute range. The album’s smooth flow between songs of similar lengths further detract from enjoying the album. With no track long enough to gain distinction from its fellow overly-polished songs with similar melodies, the whole album further simmers into its hazy nighttime colors. 

Additionally, “positions” brings nothing musically new; while Grande stands as one of the greatest pop and R&B hits today, the album does not push any conventions. The album sounds too similar to her previous works — with both “thank u, next” and “Sweetener” belonging to the R&B, pop and trap genres as well — and dims in comparison. 

The album’s featured singles are “positions” and “34+35,” which both wink playfully at sex. The title track showcases Grande’s dedication to her lover as she promises to always be flexible for them. Against a catchy beat, the superstar sings clear highs and lows for her lover — a trait absent in the rest of the album. Grande’s voice is far too muddled in the music, prohibiting the album from sounding truly hers, especially with the singer’s success greatly attributed to her show-stopping voice. 

Despite lacking any stand-out qualities, the album still feels welcome in this quarantine era. “positions” possesses a comforting bedroom quality that fits right in with the lockdown. Lyrically, the songs follow a progression reminiscent of quarantine romance: touch-starvation leads into a moment of emotional vulnerability. From the get-go, the album references sex, whether explicitly like in “34+35” or implicitly like in “love language.” With everybody missing the warmth of another human, lust is prominent in both the album and the current isolation we experience. The desperation for the touch of another overrides other thoughts and wants.

Eventually, self-isolation forces everybody to an emotional breaking point reflected in the last song, “pov.” Grande sings that she wishes to see herself from her lover’s point of view, so she could love herself the same way they love her. Though self-isolation allows much needed alone time, loneliness has prevailed, leaving everybody wanting for deep emotional connections. 

“positions” is very personal to Grande, as the album can be considered her own journey of love through quarantine. Sex take ups her mind, highlighting the sultry nighttime vibes of the album. As she and her boyfriend have been spending their quarantine together, the album’s great relation to quarantine may be representative of her ongoing relationship with real estate agent Dalton Gomez. 

Despite the heavy sexual tones of the album, “pov” serves as the album’s emotional center, fully displaying Grande’s strong belief in her relationship with Gomez. After cheekily referencing her former boyfriend Pete Davidson in the song “positions,” Grande expresses her desire to remain flexible and do what she can to maintain her romance with Gomez. In “pov,” Grande allows herself to be vulnerable, admitting both her fear and trust in starting this new relationship. The album reminds its listeners to allow vulnerability with others in hopes of finding honest connections, despite the hindering physical distance. 

Overall, though being a musically shaky album for Grande, the singer still allows her emotions to shine through in this relatable quarantine context. “positions” serves as an update on Grande’s romantic status and mindset during the lockdown, and amidst quarantine isolation, it’s also a reminder that relationships can still be found and forged. While the album does not feel worthy of a concert stage in comparison to Grande’s past works, “positions” will definitely find itself being played in bedrooms during lonely late nights — quarantined or not. 

Beatrice Malvar is an Entertainment Intern for the fall 2020 quarter. She can be reached at bmalvar@uci.edu.