October 30, 2020
The tabloids are frothing about the R&B singer’s ‘steamy’ new direction, but her sixth album blurs into one long slow jam
Ariana Grande: Positions review – all-night romps but no climax
Over the years, pre-release leaks of big albums have provoked everything from collapses in sales of the actual product to legal action. But the unscheduled appearance of Ariana Grande’s sixth studio album in the darker corners of the internet earlier this week provoked something different entirely. “THANK U, SEX!” screamed the headline in the Sun (in reference to her last album, 2019’s Thank U, Next), above a news story that promised Positions would reveal “graphic detail about all-night romps”. The ensuing lyrical analysis proceeded in time-honoured tabloid style. They seemed to have forgotten to use the phrases “sexSATIONAL” and “too shocking to print in a family newspaper”, but otherwise it was all present and correct: from “x-rated” and “steamy” to “bares all” and “sizzling” to the classic implication that they were printing all this out of a sense of moral duty: “Lyrics that will shock many parents of her young fans.”
This must clearly irk the 27-year-old Singer. All those weeks carefully teasing your new album via Twitter with coy snatches of lyrics, insistences that you’re so excited about it that you “can’t stop crying” and links to websites where fans can buy a bundle of three CDs (identical save for the marginally different poses on each cover), and you’re gazumped by a grotty British tabloid in full stick-it-up-your-punter mode. Though the Sun have a vague point. Positions arrived at short notice, a few days before the US election, which seemed pointed. But anyone who expected Grande to return to the vague politicking of 2018’s The Light Is Coming – a track built around a sample of an angry rightwing crowd protesting Obamacare – is in for a disappointment.
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