AOTY 2020 #2: Ariana Grande

AOTY 2020 #2: Ariana Grande

Artist: Ariana Grande

Album: Positions

Launched: 30 October, 2020

Label: Republic Information

Pay attention: Spotify / YouTube / Apple Music / TIDAL

Hey everybody, joyful new yr and welcome to Pophead’s AOTY writeup sequence! That is my second yr doing a writeup and I’m honored to be discussing one of many greatest releases of the hellscape that was 2020 with y’all!

Intro

That is usually the place I’d write an introduction to the subject of this writeup, however by the point this can be posted we’ll be in 2021 the place Ariana Grande wants no introduction. To say the previous few years have been a whirlwind for our ponytailed popstar could be an understatement. 2018’s sweetener noticed her cope with the fallout of the devastating assault on her Manchester live performance and have a good time discovering a brand new love with SNL star Pete Davidson (and everyone knows how that turned out). Simply months after sweetener’s launch, Ariana dropped the explosive single “thank u, subsequent” adopted by an album of the identical title. Thank u, subsequent felt heavy with feelings, most notably grief, because it painted an image of what her life regarded like after the dissolution of her engagement to Pete and the tragic lack of ex Mac Miller. Ariana made it no secret that she was going through a variety of ache and was battling psychological well being issues- followers observed she often cried on stage throughout her sweetener world tour dates, tweeted sentiments like “am i able to pls simply have one okay day. only one. pls.”, and even posted a scan on her mind on Instagram tales exhibiting the numerous components of her mind that had been affected by PTSD. Ariana’s picture took a pointy flip from as sugary-sweet as they arrive to intertwined with trauma, failed relationships, and ache.

After her massively profitable, 101-date Sweetener World Tour, issues quieted down a bit for Ariana. However in January of 2020, it was reported that she’d been seen kissing a thriller man at a bar in LA. This thriller man was later revealed to be Dalton Gomez, a low-profile actual property agent that Ari would quietly date and reside with in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ariana’s on-line presence additionally drastically modified throughout this time- the melancholy tweets had subsided and he or she grew to become muss much less interactive with followers immediately on-line. Ariana appeared able to heal, and in typical Ariana vogue, headed to the studio as inspiration struck. Regardless of stating that she wouldn’t launch an album in the course of the pandemic, in early October she started teasing an album earlier than lastly revealing the title, Positions, and the title monitor.

On October 30th, Positions was launched. To me, this album feels just like the calm after the storm of the tumultuous and emotional thank u, subsequent period. On Positions, Ariana sounds safer, much less self-deprecating, and able to heal. Whereas there’s quantity of enjoyable and horny songs, there’s loads of contemplation and feeling, each types followers count on of Ariana. That is largely a group of songs about Ariana being joyful in her new relationship (now engagement) to Dalton, and having fun with some peace and quiet. The manufacturing is discreet and string-heavy with a decidedly R&B route, one thing that has made the album fairly polarizing amongst followers and critics and even on this sub. Some loved the laid again vibe, whereas others wrote the album off as boring. One of many greatest departures from thank u, subsequent is the extent of intimacy and quantity of non-public lyrics. Whereas thank u, subsequent at occasions felt uncomfortably susceptible and trustworthy (ghostin, needy, think about) Positions offers a bit extra distance between Ari and her listeners. Whereas there are some uncooked moments lyrically, nearly all of the album strays away from the detailed depictions of her feelings and private life, leaning closely as a substitute into the “songs about intercourse” trope. Some followers appear to really feel entitled to Ariana’s ache and uncooked emotions- fan pages have such a pervasive behavior of posting sentimental posts with images of Ari and Mac that she needed to make a touch upon it.

After a complete period of oversharing, this appears to be a wholesome approach of making boundaries, even when it comes off a bit guarded and impersonal at occasions. I’ll get into my private ideas on this album later on this publish.

Observe By Observe Evaluation

  1. shut up

Some folks have urged that “shut up” is likely one of the worst songs in Ariana’s discography, if not the worst. Whereas “Arms On Me” occupies that spot for me. I do imagine that beginning Positions with “shut up” wasn’t the appropriate selection. By all means its a cute music, however the considerable perspective appears misplaced on an album about contentment. Nonetheless, this monitor options stunning vocal layering that we all know Ari likes to do, and enjoyable staccato strings within the manufacturing. It’s a cool, calm, and picked up quick monitor that lets us know straight away that this isn’t the identical messy Ariana we met on thank u, subsequent.

2. 34+35

Ari wastes no time letting us know that the centerpiece of this album is being sexy. I personally was shocked to see the outcomes of this easy math equation for the primary time on my calculator app when the tracklist was launched and I genuinely didn’t get it. Ariana drops any subtlety on this monitor and lets us know straight away that she wants her man to fuck her till the daylight or its over babes. This music did surprisingly properly as a single regardless of its explicitness and actually unhealthy clear radio combine. “34+35” is bouncy and catchy, and strings make an look as soon as once more over a trap-esque beat. Ari’s vocals are ethereal and relaxed, and this music contains a implausible prechorus and bridge. Admittedly it’s refreshing to listen to Ari so lighthearted on a monitor when even the sexiest songs on thank u, subsequent (“make-up”, “buwygib”) have been infused with a darker lyrical facet. It’s purely a intercourse bop, no feelings concerned or strings attached-which in context with the remainder of the album’s idea of hesitation and eventual embracing of affection nearly offers the music a deeper which means, much like how melancholy “7 Rings” out of the blue felt on the finish of thank u, subsequent’s tracklist. It served as a cute single with a variety of character and, as I think was the purpose, managed to go viral on TikTok.

3. motive ft. Doja Cat

The vibe of this music jogs my memory of a excessive vogue runway present within the 90’s. On “motive”, Ariana expresses her skepticism of the intentions of a brand new lover over a cool house-style beat. A collab between Ari and Doja, two of the largest names in music proper now, was undoubtedly sufficient to peak my curiosity. Doja presents a easy and melodic verse that meshes properly with Ari’s voice and brings a change of tempo to a comparatively one-note music. That is one music I generally see referred to on Twitter as “Eternally 21 music”, make of that what you’ll. It’s one of many easier songs on the album however nonetheless manages to have an identification and memorable moments.

4. identical to magic

Ariana stated Regulation Of Attraction! Whereas this music suffers lyrically in the course of the verses, it serves as one massive manifestation session for every little thing you could possibly ever need. “Identical to magic” looks like a sister monitor to sweetener’s “profitable”, each of which have uplifting lyrics about celebrating accomplishments. As somebody who very a lot lives by the Regulation Of Attraction, I’ve a comfortable spot for this music because it simply feels infused with good vibes. Manufacturing smart, it’s additionally fairly simple-no massive adjustments or climaxes.

5. off the desk ft. The Weeknd

Since their smash hit “Love Me Tougher”, followers have been gunning for an additional collab between Ari and Abel. This time, as a substitute of taunting one another with sexual pressure, the 2 are grappling with the fact of an advanced romantic state of affairs. In what looks like among the most private lyrics on the album, Ari questions if she is going to ever have the ability to love once more after loss (whereas she hasn’t confirmed the topic of any lyrics, one might assume that these have been Ari’s ideas about Mac earlier than deciding to start her new relationship with Dalton). Abel assures her that although he could also be enjoying second fiddle to somebody that’s not right here, he’ll be right here for Ariana when she desires him. It’s a easy and atmospheric 90’s fashion R&B monitor and, as at all times, their two voices mix collectively superbly. They soar collectively on the bridge and last refrain, among the finest vocal performances on the album. The heavy drums and strings on this monitor add to the dramatic environment. Ari’s ballads have at all times been one in all her robust fits and that is undoubtedly the case right here as properly. Nonetheless I discover it ironic that Abel who’s famend for being sexy and degenerate really seems on one of the crucial tender songs on the album simply attempting to indicate assist for grieving Ari.

6. six thirty

One other lowkey monitor within the vein of “identical to magic”, “six thirty “is filled with typical Ari lyrics corresponding to “come right here and provides me some kisses, you recognize I’m very scrumptious” and a slurred refrain of “are you down, wussup?”. On each Ariana album there’s only a few songs that there isn’t a lot to say about, and “six thirty” is a type of. Whereas these sorts of chill, vocally laid again songs are good breathers to interrupt up stretches of songs, Positions falls sufferer to having one too many of those, making the tracklist really feel sluggish and bloated. It doesn’t assist that “six thirty” is in the course of two of the strongest songs on the album.

  1. security web ft. Ty Dolla $ign

One other tender ballad with a male vocalist, security web strikes away from the hesitance of “off the desk” and into a brand new territory the place though Ari acknowledges she’s scared, she’s turning into much less afraid to take a threat with love. She’s particularly emotive on this monitor, sounding wistful and contemplative. Ty Dolla $ign’s characteristic is splendidly locations and interacts properly with Ari’s vocals, creating attractive harmonies. “Security web” is barely extra upbeat than off the desk manufacturing wise-featuring a pointy lure beat as a substitute of heavy drums, giving it a dreamier really feel. It’s one other one of many extra private moments on Positions. “security web” appears to be the turning level on Positions the place Ari begins feeling comfy sufficient to just accept the dangers of affection and embrace vulnerability once more.

7. my hair

Okay sufficient feelings, again to the intercourse! “My hair” opens with easy, jazzy guitar chord and an immediately funky, snappy manufacturing fashion. This can be a monitor the place Ari’s decrease register chill vocals actually shine, she’s capable of inject the correct quantity of sass and sensuality to maintain the music from being too tacky of a intercourse bop. On “my hair”, Ari invitations her lover to the touch one thing not many individuals can say they’ve had the privilege to-her pure hair, after all. That is an attention-grabbing idea for a music from Ari as her pretend ponytail has turn out to be so synonymous together with her picture, and there stays a variety of mystique about what her hair seems like with out the headache-inducing extensions. Her hair turns into a logo for intimacy and belief, it’s as candy a sentiment as it’s horny. This monitor options some unimaginable belts from Ari with a lounge singer-esque vibe, and a showstopping second the place she sings your entire refrain in her whistle register. Sickening!

8. nasty

Ariana teased “nasty” in early 2020, stunning her Instagram followers with the utterance of the phrase “pussy”. Boy have been we unprepared for the eighth grade dry humping urges of this album! One thing units “nasty” other than tracks like “six thirty” and “west facet”, and whereas I can’t pinpoint what precisely it’s, I do know that the melody of the verses and prechorus give me butterflies. For a music about desirous to fuck instantly, it’s fairly lovely, opening with a candy chuckle adopted by a type of unimaginable whistles. It’s one of many hornier tracks however feels infused with extra emotion than “34+35”, with Ari admitting that she’s in her feels. In a approach, “nasty” form of looks like a thesis for the Positions period, combining the themes of tension round new love with intercourse and acceptance of vulnerability. Regardless of not being a bop by Ari requirements, it’s nonetheless a enjoyable music.

9. west facet

“west facet” is one other chill relationship bop in step with the chilliness R&B vibes of the album up to now. It’s a brief monitor with a intelligent Aaliyah pattern and an extremely catchy refrain. By this level within the album, Ari appears to have gotten over the hesitance of the primary half of the album and invitations her potential lover to fulfill up. On the refrain she acknowledges that “there’s extra love in the event you observe feelings”.

10. love language

Ari picks the tempo again up with “love language”, which has a dizzying and immediately iconic beat with funky, horny strings. It’s a vintage-souding monitor with a cheeky and enjoyable refrain, and undoubtedly stands out amongst the latter half of Positions. To me it’s form of sweetener-esque with its manufacturing, particularly the tongue-in-cheek lyrics on the bridge asking her like to “communicate in tongues” saying “it’s AG in your face.” It’s one of many extra danceable tracks on Positions and is definite to have bomb choreography if and when Ari is ready to tour for this album. The excessive power cools off right into a candy interlude outro reminding us that Dalton is a realtor by career in saying “I ain’t tryna signal no lease, I’m simply gon’ make you my dwelling”.

12. positions

The title monitor of Positions isn’t of my favorites of Ari’s title tracks, however succeeded in summarizing the vibe of this period. It’s harking back to 2000’s R&B, with the message that Ari is dedicated to being something her lover wants from her. Many individuals criticized the enunciation on this music, one thing that has made Ari a hit and miss to listeners for years, and whereas I imagine this album as an entire is a big enchancment in that regard this music’s refrain is unintelligible to even me, and I regard myself as fluent in Arianaglish. The music video inserting Ari within the White Home was a enjoyable twist to placed on the music and framed it in an empowering gentle, however continues the pattern of Ari’s music movies having completely nothing to do with the music. Additionally, when you discover the crickets within the background of the manufacturing, that’s all you’ll have the ability to hear everytime you hear. As a lead single, it did properly in getting Ari’s title again on the radio, however didn’t have a lot longevity and pales compared to the impression of thank u, subsequent’s title monitor.

13. apparent

This is likely one of the few tracks the place Ari’s vocals shine with out an enormous efficiency crammed with excessive notes. It opens with a crooning first verse, and transitions right into a boppable pre-chorus and stunningly enjoyable refrain. It’s a candy music about sensing one thing particular about somebody instantly. I keep in mind listening to rumors that this music was written by Harry Types and whereas I haven’t seen that confirmed it jogs my memory how a lot I’d love for these two to collab once more.

14. pov

On the final monitor, Ariana leans totally into vulnerability once more with the highly effective and lullabye-esque “pov”. The music opens with quiet and subdues synths earlier than Ari’s whispery vocals are available on the verse, with an impact that just about appears like a relaxing “shhh”, including to the comfortable and mawkish vibe. On “pov”, Ari ruminates over how protected she feels in her new relationship, and the way she needs she might see herself as the gorgeous individual worthy of affection that her companion sees her as. This music grew to become an immediate fan favourite for a reason- its a spotlight on the album each lyrically and sonically, with numerous uncooked emotion operating by the vocals and manufacturing. You may really really feel that these lyrics are honest to Ariana’s ideas, and it’s intimate in a approach that would slot in on thank u, subsequent. Ari’s powerhouse vocals actually shine on this monitor as properly, between the climactic last refrain and the tender supply. “Pov” a goosebumps-inducing ballad that feels as relatable because it does enchanting. It’s undoubtedly the crown jewel of Positions, and joins the ranks of Ariana’s greatest songs of all time.

My Private Ideas on Positions

As a longtime fan of Ariana’s, plainly she makes the very best music when she has one thing to say, or a thought to work by. This isn’t to say that Ariana ought to preserve reopening her emotional wounds for the sake of her work- fairly the other really, because the songs about therapeutic on Positions are simply as compelling. Grief remains to be an enormous subject on this album as properly, however it doesn’t take the forefront-even although Ari’s tried to heal and evolve, some issues you possibly can’t cant erase. It was good to listen to a extra steady, targeted lyrical voice from Ari. However what made this album fall flat for me was the genericness (is that the phrase?) of the lyrics and manufacturing. Lyrics have by no means been her robust swimsuit, however paired with these killer vocals and attention-grabbing manufacturing that’s not such a problem. To me, too lots of the songs on Positions flowed collectively sonically or lined the identical subjects lyrically to make this album as memorable as her previous few efforts. It additionally doesn’t assist that lots of the songs are streaming-age quick. Harmful Girl had an analogous, if not higher, quantity of filler however nonetheless felt like a completely realized challenge in a approach Positions simply doesn’t fairly. Positions feels at occasions like a typical feminine R&B debut, which isn’t to say that the music is unhealthy, however it’s undoubtedly regressive for an artist of Ariana’s standing and functionality. It’s not an album I return to fairly often as an entire in addition to choose songs. Nonetheless, I can respect it as a purely for enjoyable, chill, simple listening album that creates a little bit of distance between present day Ari and thank u, subsequent period Ari. Even earlier than the discharge of Positions, Ariana was one of many greatest stars on the planet, and has undoubtedly confirmed her longevity on this enterprise. Sooner or later, I’d like to see Ari department out of her consolation zone production-wise, and preserve enjoying round with style as she efficiently did on Positions. Watching her develop from the little purple haired orange lady on Yours Really to a mature sounding girl on Positions is admittedly awe-inspiring, even when it isn’t my favourite album of hers. I’m extremely joyful for Ariana that she has discovered happiness and peace, a lot in order that I cried tears of pleasure at my work desk and referred to as my mother when she introduced her engagement. If nothing else, Positions is a testomony that heartbreak isn’t the top and as scary as it may be to place your self on the market to the world, it’s price it in the long run in the identical of affection (and good dick).

Questions for Dialogue

  1. The place do you rank Positions amongst Ari’s different albums?

  2. Do you suppose Ari ought to persist with this R&B route or transfer onto one thing else? Ought to she return to massive, Max Martin pop for her subsequent challenge?

  3. Positions was extremely divisive not solely on this sub, however for critics and followers as properly. Why do you suppose that’s?

  4. Ariana stated in a current IG publish that she’s “wanting ahead to a change of tempo”. Now that Ariana has positioned (lol) herself as a most important act within the musical world, what do you suppose is subsequent for her profession?

Thanks a lot for studying my writeup! Sending you’re keen on and light-weight this 2021. yuh <3

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