Opinions & Features Workshop (Oct 26th)

Photo of Ariana Grande in the music video for "positions." // Photo courtesy of YouTube.

The return of Ariana Grande: A full breakdown of her newest album

By Vanessa CarterDecember 13 2020—

Christmas has come early for Arianators with the release of Ariana Grande’s sixth studio album, Positions. This was a highly-anticipated album for Grande after her most recent albums, Sweetener and thank u, next. Many expected Grande to take a break from music after the chart-topping hits earlier this year of “Stuck with You” and “Rain on Me” featuring Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga, respectively, resulting in a big surprise for fans when the lead single was released only a week before the album with hardly any teasers.

Grande has also entered into a new relationship this year with Los Angeles luxury realtor Dalton Gomez, a person many expected to be the main subject of AG6. While this album certainly serves to grace our quarantine boredom, a certain Arianator (myself) has spent time analyzing this album and has quite a lot to say about the hidden meanings and concepts in a track-by-track breakdown with the songs that make up the latest message Grande wants to share with the world. 

“shut up”— You can bet I was checking Twitter every day as soon as Grande posted the very first teaser video for AG6, a short clip in slow motion of her simply typing the word “Positions” on a keyboard that turned out to be on the set of a future music video. When she posted the tracklist, I wondered what she could possibly be talking about on a song telling someone to shut up. Then again, Grande has always been known to speak her mind and not hold back when interviewers, managers, and other celebrities have tried to disrespect her. This concept was proven on this first track on top of a string background and an orchestra harmony, featuring lyrics such as “You know you sound so dumb / So maybe you should shut up,”, and “How you be spending your time? / How you be using your tongue? / You be so worried ’bout mine?” Basically, Grande is trying to convey a message that instead of others worrying about what she’s doing and waiting to criticize her every move, they could be doing better things with their time to ultimately be better people.

Lyric video for the song “shut up.” // Video courtesy of YouTube.

“34 + 35 This was arguably the song title that raised the most eyebrows as soon as the tracklist was released, as these numbers add up to the sexual position 69. At first listen to this track that demonstrates a bubbly style similar to the songs on Sweetener, most would assume this song is simply about sexual activities between Grande and Gomez. But after paying attention to the actual lyrics, such as “But who’s counting the time / When we got it for life?” and “You’re such a dream come true, true / Make a bi*tch wanna hit snooze, ooh,” it’s evident that this track is about the couple just having fun in a new romance. In an interview on the Zach Sang Show, Grande stated this song was created out of having fun with her friends in the studio, with them contributing the line “If I put it quite plainly / Just give me them babies,” instead of her marching in with the idea of singing about her sex life. She still worried that this song would take away from the overall class and vulnerability on the rest of the album, but no one really seems to mind it. In fact, the music video features no sexual activity at all — it simply portrays Grande as both a lab scientist and a fembot that is the lab’s research subject. The fembot in question is a direct reference to the film, Austin Powers, a role for Grande to display her sexuality and femininity as powerful characteristics, which she believes no woman should be ashamed of. 

Music video for the song “34+35.” // Video courtesy of YouTube.

“motive” (with Doja Cat) This particular song proved to be the long-awaited collaboration between Grande and Doja Cat, who was arguably the top breakthrough artist of 2020. It is also my personal favourite, with an unforgettable and upbeat background produced by Murda Beatz, who has worked with many Rap and R&B artists. It conveys a very relatable subject for many, surrounding the moment when someone wants to pursue you, but you aren’t sure of what their real motives are. This is quite obvious on the main chorus lyrics, with Grande mentioning “But before I lead you on / Baby, tell me, what’s your motive?” and Doja Cat singing “Say what you want, I needed a real bonafide G / Can you promise me you’ll bring it all tonight? / ‘Cause I need you to be wise / Tell me everything that’s on your mind, come on.” While both women have been in tumultuous relationships, it’s quite clear that they have learned from their experiences and will be more cautious with those who approach them claiming they have a lot to offer. Frankly, we can all learn from this subject to trust only those who have good intentions in order to surround yourself with the right influences who will be there for you no matter what. 

Lyric video for “motive.” // Video courtesy of YouTube.

“just like magic” This specific track is about Grande’s aura and what she does in her daily routines to maintain positivity in her life. Her description of this, sung over a sweet and catchy tune also similar to the styles of Sweetener, is done through lyrics such as “Good karma, my aesthetic / Keep my conscience clear, that’s why I’m so magnetic / Manifest it, I finessed it / Take my pen and write some love letters to heaven,” A popular fan theory on TikTok suggests that the “love letters to heaven” is a suggestion of Grande communicating with the late Mac Miller in some way, acknowledging that she can still feel his presence and wants to thank him and the universe for granting her good karma and success. As a result, this good energy is rewarding Grande in a way that’s “just like magic” in the way that she puts in effort to manifest and work hard for her success. 

Lyric video for the song “just like magic.” // Video courtesy of YouTube.

“off the table” (with The Weeknd) Another well-rumoured collaboration of Grande and The Weeknd’s, who have not released music together since “Love Me Harder” in 2015. This song puts both artists into the perspective of a couple where the girl is recovering from a previous lost love, while being pursued by someone else at the same time who is willing to wait for her, promising his love will be worth it. Grande begins the sultry, orchestral tune with the lyrics “Will I ever love somebody like the way I did you? / Never thought you’d be so damn hard to replace / I swear I don’t mean to be this way / If I can’t have you, is love completely off the table?” and The Weeknd following with “I’ll wait for you / Even though it always feels like I’ll be number two / To someone you can’t hold anymore / If you let me in, I’m ready to give you what I couldn’t before,” Although nothing has been confirmed, there is much speculation among fans who believe this song is very similar to the narrative of “ghostin” from thank u, next, telling the story of Grande explaining to her partner (rumoured to be Pete Davidson) that she cannot give him the love and attention he deserves since her mind is still on her ex (presumptively Mac Miller), and grasping the heartbreaking reality that they will never be together again. 

Lyric video for the song “off the table.” // Video courtesy of YouTube.

“six thirty” Similar to the subject of “motive”, “six thirty” shares the narrative of Grande inquiring of her partner if he will be willing to stay with her long-term and be down for her whenever especially after so much time spent together in quarantine. This is proven over the lyrics “Watcha gonna do when I’m bored / And I wanna play video games at 2 AM?” In the same interview on the Zach Sang Show, Grande stated that no one in her household usually stays up at 2 AM; pretty much everyone is asleep much earlier. However, she did mention that on the rare occasion she does stay up late, she wants a companion who will do so with her without hesitation or boredom. The end of the song follows as “Down like six thirty / Down like sunsets / Down like my head on your chest,” with “six thirty” referring to the hands on the clock at that time, where they both point directly downwards, as well as the sun often setting during this time in the evening.

Lyric video for the song “six thirty.” // Video courtesy of YouTube.

“safety net” (feat. Ty Dolla $ign) This collaboration between Grande and Ty Dolla $ign came as a surprise to many, with Grande stating in the Zach Sang Show interview that they happened to be recording in the same studio and the rapper stopped by to hear what she was putting together and wanted to add on a verse. This song is another narrative of the recurring theme — Grande encountering a love she thought she’d never find again, perhaps with her current boyfriend Dalton Gomez. In the beginning, she sings “You’re making me forget my past / Never thought I’d feel like that again / I came to peace with my path / Now you got me off track,” further proving this point. Grande later sings, “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? / Got me tripping, falling, with no safety net.” The line “Is it real this time or is it in my head” is a parallel to “in my head” from thank u, next where Grande realizes post-breakup that there were many red flags in her past relationship, but she created a fantasy out of all the potential she knew her old partner had. As a result, she knew she would be more cautious in her next relationship, but this time she found someone she is willing to risk falling in love with, with no safety net below. 

Lyric video for the song “safety night.” // Video courtesy of YouTube.

“my hair” This particular song was rumoured amongst Arianators since the early spring, with the title “my hair” appearing in leaked pictures of the recording studio. In the same interview with Zach Sang, Ariana mentioned how her hair is such an intimate piece of her because not many have seen it in its natural state. She shared how the world has seen her go through “phases” with her hair, dyeing it red every weekend for Victorious, a red wig for Sam and Cat, the iconic half-ponytail through 2013-2015, a high ponytail for 2016-2019, and even a platinum low-ponytail for the Sweetener era of 2018. She also shared that her boyfriend, Dalton Gomez, loves her hair in its short, curly natural state since he is one of the few people who gets to see it that way. Grande further expresses this in lyrics such as “Usually don’t let people touch it / But tonight, you get a pass” in reference to her own hair as a symbol of vulnerability. 

Music video for the song “my hair.” // Video courtesy of YouTube.

“nasty”   This track was the very first to be teased on the album, with Grande herself posting a snippet of it to social media back in the spring. While this song is very much about wanting to do ‘the nasty’ with her partner, Grande explains wanting to be intimate in a way that she completely trusts him and wants to give herself to him forever. Even if they don’t last, it’s a risk she’s willing to take just to share a bonding experience through the lyrics of “You got me all up in my feels, in all kind of ways / I be tryna wait, but, lately, I just wanna keep it real / No more playin’ safe, let’s take it all the way.” Grande isn’t known to have frequent one-night stands or multiple sexual partners, so she seems the type of person to save herself and any intimate experiences for her serious relationships with those she can really trust.

Lyric video for the song “nasty.” // Video courtesy of YouTube.

“west side” The narrative of this song is very similar to that of the previous songs, with Grande affirming to her partner that she is most certainly worth his time for the rest of their lives. She knows they can last forever and there isn’t any point in them trying to break up or consider wanting to be with other people. Whether or not this is about Gomez, Grande sings “I’m gonna make you want more  / I’m gonna be your new favorite / Tell them you’re closing the door / I am the only for sure,” and “Show up, now if you’re down to roll up / Meet me on the west side for me / Hold up, there shouldn’t be no hold up / There’s more love if you follow emotions.” As for the instrumental background of the song, it’s a short and sweet pop segment similar to the sound of Sweetener, like many of the previous songs overall making it almost sound like a sequel. 

Lyric video for the song “west side.” // Video courtesy of YouTube.

“love language” Many fans on social media have suggested his particular track sounds almost identical to the song “successful” from Sweetener. This track is once again part of the common narrative of this album where Grande is expressing to her partner that he is one of the few who can keep her grounded while speaking her “love language” at the same time. While Grande sings, “If you gon’ keep speakin’ my love language / You can talk your sh*t all night / You’re the medication when I’m feelin’ anxious / That’s the kind of sh*t I like / Teach me how to love you / I’m unlearnin’ what ain’t right / I want you to keep speakin’ my love language.” As a result, this signifies the fact that Grande sees no point in trying to pursue anyone else since she and her partner find new things to love about each other every day. 

“positions” The lead single for the album, and a very appropriate one considering how this track talks about the abundance of positions Grande finds herself in with her current relationship. She makes it clear that she can be “Cookin’ in the kitchen and in the bedroom,” yet she is still dedicated to her blossoming career and making music to inspire others through the lyrics “I’m in the Olympics, way I’m jumping through hoops / Know my love infinite, nothin’ I wouldn’t do / That I won’t do, switchin’ for you.,” With this in mind, this song is something many young women can relate to since gender norms have usually constrained women to just cooking and cleaning in the kitchen. However, society is finally acknowledging that women can hold successful careers outside the home while still being there for their partners when needed and appreciating them just the same. The music video for this single depicts Grande as US President,  (perhaps a nod to the recentongoing election). Everyone in her group of advisors and cabinet are women, however, they are all of various racial backgrounds and body sizes. Grande even presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to a non-binary person, signifying an all-inclusive administration and accepting everyone regardless of orientation. While Grande plays the role of president, she does not have a “First Man” or any romantic partners in the video, perhaps signifying she wants people to see her for more than her relationships and that her individual power is enough to define herself and what she is capable of as a woman. 

Music video for the song “positions.” // Video courtesy of YouTube.

“obvious” This is the last song on the 14-track album that contributes to the recurring narrative of Grande making it “obvious” to her partner that she wants their relationship to last because of its effortlessness and the fact that she is sure this is going to work after going through so much trauma in her past relationships. She proves this point on the lyrics that describe “Others that I’ve had had to impress me before / But I knew you were the real thing / When you walked through the door / I didn’t think that I would have to spell it out.” Once again, whether or not she is directly referring to Gomez still adds to the fact that this relationship of hers could be the one. 

Lyric video for the song “obvious.” // Video courtesy of YouTube.

“pov” POV is an abbreviation for ‘point of view’ and has quickly become a fan-favourite and the most favourable song on Positions to most of Grande’s personal friends. A TikTok trend has even started from this song, where people on the app are posting pictures of themselves at their best and worst moments, with the line “I’d love to see me from your point of view” in the background. In herthe interview with Zach Sang, Grande stated that this track was meant for those who love her flaws and that she wishes she could love her own flaws the way others do. This is demonstrated in the lyrics “I wanna love me / The way that you love me / For all of my pretty and all of my ugly too / I’d love to see me from your point of view.” Social media has also speculated that this is a thank-you from Grande to her fans who have witnessed her grow through many positions in life with trauma, relationships, music, and friendships. This song is an amazing conclusion to the album, reminding us that there will always be others who will love our flaws regardless of what positions we may find ourselves in throughout our lives. 

Lyric video for the song “pov.” // Video courtesy of YouTube.

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