Pop powerhouse Ariana Grande has made her official comeback with her new single “positions,” from her upcoming sixth album of the same name, on October 21. To add to the excitement, she and her favored collaborator Dave Meyers dropped the accompanying music video for the single on the same night, marking the new “AG6” era.
Grande had a whirlwind 2019, which featured the release of her quick follow-up album to Sweetener (2018), titled thank u, next, and her record-breaking Sweetener World Tour. Up until October, she stayed mostly mum regarding new music (releasing only the quarantine duet “Stuck with U” with Justin Bieber and her previously recorded Lady Gaga collaboration “Rain on Me”), preferring posts about important social justice matters, like voter registration and the Black Lives Matter movement. On October 14, however, Grande threw fans for a loop with a simple, casual announcement: “i can’t wait to give u my album this month.”
Immediately following the tweet, her website homepage went entirely dark, only to revive with a countdown for an undisclosed event in one week and another two weeks later. This past Friday at midnight, Grande’s lead single debuted, a chill pop/trap/R&B track about being versatile and devoted in a new relationship. The low-key, slinky song marks an intriguing new direction for Grande, but one that promises to encompass and bolster her iconic voice and unique style.
As the song opens to a jauntily plucked guitar, the video zooms through the front lawns of the White House in signature Meyers fashion (see: “No Tears Left to Cry” music video). The scene of Grande, seated at the head of a table as president and surrounded by Cabinet members, appears simultaneously with the start of sung lyrics. Grande once again features her close circle in the video: R&B singer and songwriter Victoria Monet; hairstylist Josh Liu; singer/songwriter Tayla Parx; dancers Darrion Gallegos and Taya Shawki; mother Joan Grande; friend Misha Lambert. Even her ever-present, famous-in-his-own-right furry companion Toulouse appears in a framed portrait in the background.
Meyers’s direction leads to flawlessly executed transitions between settings, as the conference table meeting is interrupted by Grande in the Oval Office, signing papers. Only a minute into the video, the outfit styling, done by popular celebrity stylist Mimi Cuttrell, stands out as immaculate. Grande wears Jackie O.-esque pieces: a white beret, a button-accented black and white outfit, and large pearl earrings.
The song describes the love-filled new connection with a juxtaposition of present and past (“Heaven sent you to me / I’m just hoping I don’t repeat history”) and dynamics in the relationship. Grande has revealed subtly, both in her “Stuck with U” music video and through her Instagram posts, her new connection with Dalton Gomez, a real estate agent. Unlike previous relationships, Grande has chosen to keep mostly quiet about their love—except through music.
Grande’s “positions” may pose as an innuendo-filled song purely based off the title, but the real gem comes from her apparent admiration and commitment to her new love, at its purest in the chorus:
“Switchin’ the positions for you
Cooking in the kitchen and I’m in the bedroom
I’m in the Olympics, way I’m jumpin’ through hoops
Know my love infinite, nothin’ I wouldn’t do.”
Grande’s skill in harmonies shine as her voice dances with itself effortlessly; each little added detail gives an intimate, warm quality to the song. Grande may face accusations of unclear enunciation, but she has a talent, nonetheless, in conveying emotions and composing sweet and honest lyrics.
Right on cue with “switchin’ the positions,” the video overturns to find Grande, clad in a white laced corset, literally “cooking in the kitchen.” She tosses pizza dough while looking like a picturesque ‘50s housewife, and speedy shots from a photoshoot flash in unison with the background drumbeat.
The chorus slides right into the second verse, and so does the next scene: Grande once again in the Oval Office as personnel from the first scene flank her right and left. Resembling Audrey Hepburn in a black, one-shouldered dress and wrist-length diamond-studded gloves, Grande croons to the camera, “You’re too good to be true / But I get tired of runnin’, f**k it / Now, I’m runnin’ with you.” Her change is in how she feels: all-in, willing to do whatever for their relationship. However, the video shows another aspect of switching positions.
“Said, boy, I’m tryna meet your mama on a Sunday / Then make a lotta love on a Monday” are the backing lyrics to Grande strutting down a hallway adorned with flags, people trailing behind. Her power and confidence radiate, communicating the knowledge that she can do it all: be a lover, a woman in charge, a provider, whatever she needs to do.
The bright, flashing scenes of the boardroom and hallways turn more vulnerable. Like the opening of the song, the camera zooms in toward a window of the White House at night, where Grande perches on a bed and sings to herself. The beats drop away to let the guitar and Grande’s humming fill the backing track. “This some sh*t that I usually don’t do / But for you, I kinda, kinda want to,” she confesses, and we know that she is really in love. She seductively sings about positions while in a bedroom, but the duality of Grande is that her lyrics can always smoothly convey a cheeky double entendre as well (ever heard “Side to Side”?). Her videos emphasize the part of her allure as a self-empowered woman, a position from which she refuses to back down.
As the song reaches its final two sets of chorus, the frame churns between bedroom, Oval Office, Press Briefing Room, hallway, and kitchen. More picture shots and little videos stamp onto the screen to show her playful and bold sides; switching increases within the video and the song, as it speeds and slows, becoming full of light and then shadowy. Grande’s graceful harmonies become more dominant, bursting and infusing the song with power and passion.
One standout moment is a quick frame of Grande in a mustard skirt and blazer set, presenting a postal worker with, presumably, the Presidential Medal of Freedom (Side note: fans spotted Grande standing on a step ladder to be able to stand at the same height as the postal worker!). Grande, known for her outspokenness and activism ever since she started rising to stardom, has continued to impact others. For instance, Sweetener World Tour broke HeadCount’s record for most voter registrations and actions during a tour. Positions-era is no exception—Grande has repeatedly posted voting information and has spoken out against the current administration in subtle ways through her art (see: “Monopoly” video, 1:42).
Her impressive vocals never disappoint, especially in the last rendition of the chorus: her effortless whistle notes made their triumphant appearance just before the end of the song. The track continues its excellence to the very end, and so does the video. Grande hums and vocalizes, which might sound familiar to those who saw her first official snippet. Her voice silkily traipses down to a soft, low note, settling the song’s end with only a fading trap beat and guitar strings. The closing image of the video places viewers back outside the White House on a snowy evening. As the track fades, Grande salutes soldiers in a chic houndstooth coat and pillbox hat, in line with the ‘50s aesthetic, as she walks her five dogs (which are all actually her own) before being dragged by them.
Director Meyers and Grande have created a perfect complement for the song once again, presenting a video full of beautiful sets, gorgeous transitions and effects, and wonderfully meaningful snapshots of Grande’s personality. The track is not the boisterously bold Dangerous Woman (2016), or the light healing of Sweetener (2018). Instead, “positions” is a fantastic introduction to the new era for the songstress. Past the tumult of thank u, next (2019), Grande seems happier and more secure in herself and her life—more mature and in her moment than ever. The song itself is relaxed yet skillful, managing to combine all the best parts of her voice and work with her trusted collaborators, making for quite an exciting build-up to her newest album positions (2020), arriving October 30.