Ariana Grande’s ‘Positions’ Explores Love, Sex and Vulnerability

While some critics have dismissed the artist's latest album, a look at the lyrics paints a portrait of a singer who has found some measure of peace after a period of chaos.
November 16, 2020
9 mins read

Ariana Grande surprised fans with the release of her sixth studio album, “Positions,” on October 30. Rather than build up hype around her new project, Grande simply announced on Twitter in mid-October that she was excited to release new music. The album has 14 songs that all tell a story about love, vulnerability, trust and sex.

Unlike her previous two albums, “Sweetener” and “Thank U, Next,” the cover for “Positions” is right side up indicating that her world has returned to a semblance of normalcy. This album is meant to deliver classic pop and R&B songs to her fans and also be a little less serious than her last two full-length releases. Grande most likely spent her quarantine working on this recording since most of her songs are about her new boyfriend, Dalton Gomez.

While many fans and critics were quick to make fun of many of Grande’s new songs on social media, a brief look at the lyrics will leave you with a different impression.

Grande has a controversial message for her haters

Grande’s first song on the album is “Shut Up,” a quick 2-minute and 37-second track addressing her haters. In the first verse, she sings “Guess it f—in’ just clicked one night. All them demons helped me see s— differently, so don’t be sad for me.”

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The past few years have been quite difficult for Grande with the terrorist attack at her concert in Manchester and the death of her ex-boyfriend Mac Miller. Still, she doesn’t want her fans to pity her because she learned a lot from these troublesome experiences. Grande asks her detractors: “How you been using your time? … You be so worried ’bout mine.”

In the chorus, Grande sings, “So maybe you should shut up,” indicating that she is tired of hearing negative comments about her career and personal life. She mentions how supportive and positive her inner circle of friends is, singing “I vibe real high, and my circle lit. We ain’t really with drugs and s—.” Overall “Shut Up” is a quick little fun song that isn’t meant to be thought-provoking. With simple lyrics and no Easter eggs, “Shut Up” sets the playful mood for the rest of the album.

Artists such as Doja Cat, The Weeknd and Ty Dolla $ign feature on “Positions”

Unlike other songs, “Safety Net” gives listeners a glimpse into Grande’s new relationship with real estate agent Dalton Gomez. The song is about the initial stages of a new romance and how vulnerable one may feel. Alluding to how her relationship with Gomez became so serious, Grande asks in the song, “How did we get here so damn fast?” Gomez helps her forget her past, which is something she never thought would happen.

Grande reveals how vulnerable she feels when she starts the chorus, “Tripping, falling, with no safety net. Boy, it must be something that you said. Is it real this time or is it in my head?” She is afraid of what she is feeling because she felt the same way before and was let down. However, Grande decides that her feelings can no longer be ignored.

Ty Dolla $ign sings the second verse from the perspective of Grande’s boyfriend. He tells her, “Let your guard down, girl, you know we came too far now girl.” His verse encourages Grande to step out of her shell and have the confidence to love again. The two close the song by singing the chorus together, giving the listener the impression that fear is something both of them are experiencing.

Grande’s third song on the album, “Motive,” features Doja Cat in the third verse. The song focuses on the sexual attraction Grande feels toward her partner and the doubts she still has. Grande sings, “Tell me why I get this feeling that you really wanna turn me on… That you really wanna make me yours.” She admits that his desire for her excites her, but before things escalate, Grande wants to figure out, “What’s your motive?”

Doja Cat’s verse contributes to the overall theme of wanting transparency in a relationship. Subtly referencing Grande’s past romances, Doja sings, “Well, I had to bring the fists out, had to put a wall up, but don’t trust phonies, baby.” She goes on to ask her partner to be honest in their relationship and tell her “everything that’s on your mind.” Although “Motive” has a few hidden meanings, it airs on the more playful side of the album with classic pop beats listeners can easily groove along to.

The Weeknd is featured on “Off the Table,” and sings the part of Grande’s boyfriend. Similar to “Safety Net,” this song is also about vulnerability and the fears associated with starting a new relationship. In the first verse, Grande expresses that she is scared to jump into a new relationship since she is still recovering from her last one. But at the same time, Grande feels like she can trust her new partner. She wonders “is love completely off the table” if she lets go of him.

The Weeknd joins in on the second verse as a potential boyfriend. He expresses his willingness to wait for Grande to be completely comfortable before starting a new relationship with her. However, he still feels like a backup option for Grande. He sings, “I’ll wait for you, even though it always feels like I’ll be number two.” He promises to love Grande more than anyone else ever has and wants to help her overcome her doubts. The Weeknd asks her to let him into her heart before ending his verse singing, “I don’t think love’s completely off the table.”

The title track has become an instant hit among fans

Grande released the lead single, “Positions,” and it quickly rose to the No. 1 spot on the charts. The song dropped in late October with a music video that already has 77 million views. “Positions” is all about how happy Grande feels with her new boyfriend and how hard she is trying to not repeat the same mistakes she made with her ex-fiance Pete Davidson.

The song starts with Grande describing her partner as someone sent directly from heaven. Grande wants more than just a casual relationship. She wants to meet his family and “then make a lotta love.” In the chorus, Grande sings, “Switchin’ the positions for you. Cookin’ in the kitchen and I’m in the bedroom. I’m in the Olympics, way I’m jumping through hoops.” She is ready to do anything to maintain her relationship and make her partner happy. She goes on to sing, “This some s— that I usually don’t do, but for you, I kinda, kinda want to, ’cause you’re down for me, and I’m down too.” Her relationship with Gomez is different from the ones she previously had. She admits that she usually is not comfortable doing certain things, but she wants to do them with Gomez because of the unique relationship they have.

In the music video, Grande changes the meaning of the lyrics “Switchin’ the position” to reference female empowerment in the workplace and at home. The video takes place at the White House, where Grande plays the role of a female president with a diverse cabinet. She quickly switches roles from her day job to cooking in the kitchen. Overall, the music video is a feminist anthem that demonstrates how women can seamlessly take on positions of power.

“Positions” is an album that centers around the positive aspects of a relationship and briefly acknowledges the pain experienced by Grande.  She continues to amaze fans with her excellent singing and vocal range. With very few Easter eggs, the album does a fine job of giving fans a glimpse into Grande’s life as well as providing them with new tunes to jam out to in their free time.

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