Resident Alien, Switchblade Sisters, Deluxe Positions, and Foundation

Ariana Grande, Positions (Deluxe)

Hal: Six months after the release of her Positions album, pop and R&B singer Ariana Grande has released a deluxe edition of the album. Unlike many of the recent deluxe albums that are effectively an entire B side to the album, Grande keeps her record to a more tasteful five additional tracks, one being a remix of one of the album’s singles. The cheeky “34+35” was a highlight on Positions and was appropriately chosen as the next single, the title track having been the leading one. The track was subsequently remixed by two of the biggest breakthrough stars of the last couple of years. Doja Cat and Megan Thee Stallion broke through with viral hits in 2018 and 2019 respectively, but 2020 was a banner year for them both, with their songs “Say So” and “Savage” becoming two of the year’s biggest hits (I can pat myself on the back for picking “Say So” as the highlight of Doja’s album and a hit in the making weeks before it impacted on the hot 100).

As Doja Cat and Megan vie for the role of Grande’s regular rap feature (now that Nicki Minaj is no longer a sought-after commodity). Megan gives an impressive performance as always, but her bold and dirty Southern vibe is quite a contrast from Grande and the coy instrumental. Meanwhile, Doja offers just as many flow switches and punchlines, but her plastic eccentricity and softer voice give her better chemistry on the song. It was certainly the right choice to give Doja the middle verse as she bridges the gap between Ari and Megan nicely.

Neither rapper sounds like a natural fit for the song, it doesn’t really have a rap beat and the instrumental could have been retooled somewhat to better accommodate their respective styles. Ironically, those two songs previously mentioned are perfect examples of how to do that well or poorly, with Nicki Minaj’s insertion onto the remix of Doja’s “Say So” extremely lazy and haphazard, while Beyonce’s remix of Megan’s “Savage” was a textbook example of the potential for a remix to breathe a whole new life into a song. “34+35” doesn’t quite do that, but you still have three of the biggest talents in the top forty on the same track and none of them disappoint. Doja’s still underrated as a rapper and I hope she balances out her persona soon, as her next project could be make-or-break for her.

Grande doesn’t stray far from the templates she established on “positions,” with the same tasteful softly-softly instrumentals by Steven Franks and Tommy Parker, and some extremely thirsty lyrics, employing imagery like: anonymous sex, romantic sex, phone sex, all-night sex, sex in a sixty-nine position, sex in a car, sex with a car, sex with a robot, and so on. From top to bottom, it’s a pillow-heavy experience.

The new tracks kick off with the short and sweet “someone like u”—the kind of brief, prologue track that Grande often likes to open a project with. The graceful retro opening chords of “test drive” put one in mind of a mid-’80s movie soundtrack, it’s hard to hear them without picturing a yuppie couple drinking cocktails in a spartan beach house, watching the waves crash, all shot in a blue filter. When the beat drops in though, it becomes another song altogether. A gorgeous, propulsive energy takes hold of the track and Grande tickles your ears with her familiar sensuous cooing.

After the remix, there are two more songs, just as tender and seductive, with a bubbly and unhurried coolness. The closing track is the longest of the four new songs, but even that clocks in at a mere two minutes and ten seconds. It’s also possibly the best, but it’s a strong collection of bonus tracks on the whole. None of these songs had a huge amount of single potential, and as with the original album, lack the substance and narrative of Grande’s best songs, but the elegant production and Grande’s refined voice are still worth revisiting. Positions does still fall short of the emotional depth of Thank U Next and the career-defining opulence of Sweetener, but it’s a pleasant and graceful display of fundamentals that’s at its best when it relies on that simplicity.

Written by TV Obsessive

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *