By Malcolm-Aimé Musoni
November 05, 2020 at 09:00 AM EST
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Positions - Ariana Grande
Credit: Republic

In March, Ariana Grande dropped a 48-second snippet of a then-unreleased track called “Nasty" in which the pop princess, ponytail maestro, and queen of soft bops sang about being all up in her feels, not trying to wait for love, and... um... how her ”p---- designed for ya. Ten outta five on ya’.” Six months later, we have the full song (plus 13 others) that form Positions, the horniest, most self-aware album of Grande’s career.

Of course, every former child star-turned-pop singer arrives at a point in their lives where they decide to shake off their old persona and start singing about sex. Though Grande’s music has never shied away from intimacy — in 2016, she released “Side to Side,” teaming up with Nicki Minaj to talk about the reality of having so much sex one literally cannot walk straight the next day, while 2014 saw her collaborating with rapper A$AP Ferg on “Hands on Me” — her approach to sex in her songs has mostly been vanilla.

That is decidedly not the case on Positions, a follow-up to the one-two punch of 2018’s Sweetener and 2019’s Thank U, Next. This album is not only Grande’s most lustful, it’s a reflection of the times we live in — stuck at home, no chance to properly socialize, spending all day thinking about the sex we could be having. It’s a narrative everyone can relate to. 

On “34+35,” an ode to a certain sexual act (you do the math), Grande sings, “Just gimme them babies… You know I keep it squeaky,” and more directly in the chorus, “Can you stay up all night? F---- me 'til the daylight.” Meanwhile, the aforementioned “Nasty" delivers in full, with Grande singing, “Promise imma give it to you like you never had it/I do it so good it’s gonna be hard to break the habit” before telling her lover on the third verse to “get the homies” out of the house so that her “body can say something.” The album’s lead single, “Positions,” is just as straightforward, as Grande switches positions in the bedroom for her man, while “Love Language” has her asking to “Treat it just like Givenchy/It’s expensive to taste/Ain’t no need to remind you/It’s AG in your face.” On songs “Six Thirty,” “Obvious,” and “Love Language,” Grande’s approach is only slightly more subtle. “I like the taste of you in the morning/Keep me warm and nothing else, nothing more important,” she sings on “Obvious.” “Hard to think when I'm under you/Tell you all of my dirty truths.”

The album takes a turn toward the sensual on “My Hair.” The singer’s tresses have been the subject of constant fanfare throughout her career, with some ridiculing her for her dedication to her ponytail and her long extensions.

In a new interview with Zach Sang, Grande opened up about her locks saying, “My real hair — which is the humongous, curly, curly poof — is kind of, I don’t know… I say so few people get to see it, and it’s cute, and it reminds me of me as a kid, and it reminds me of you know, it’s who I am privately.”

With “My Hair,” she skips past the critiques with an offer. “Usually don't let people touch it/But tonight, you get a pass.” That sense of ultimate trust, vulnerability, and desire can also be found on less sexual tracks like “Off the Table,” a duet with the Weeknd where Grande looks for reassurance that love is still on the table despite not being completely healed from a past relationship. “POV” is equally honest and soul-crushing, with Grande wishing to see herself the way her lover sees her. “I wanna love me/The way that you love me/For all of my pretty/And all of my ugly, too/I love to see me from your point of view.”

But Grande's lustful escapades are the album's draw. Though they're bound to cause some controversy from parents who, years later, still think of Grande as the red-haired Cat Valentine on Victorious and Sam & Cat, it shouldn’t take away from the fact that Positions is an album that people needed — an escape from daily life in 2020 while a pandemic rages on and a return to normalcy seems unrealistic this year, or the next. We’re all yearning for human contact, for relief. No matter what happens, Grande created a soundtrack for the moment’s desires. As she sings in “Just Like Magic,” “Wake up in my bed/ I just wanna have a good day.” Ain't that the truth.

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