Halftime Leisure

Ariana Grande’s Positions Deluxe (2021) is a Miniature Extension of Love

February 24, 2021

For the first time since her 2014 album My Everything, singer Ariana Grande has released a deluxe version for that of her latest, Positions (2020). The decision makes sense—not only has she been enjoying the success of the cozy, laid-back R&B project, but she has also found a deep well of inspiration after finding a new love herself. The artist released four brand-new tracks that stay true to the album’s original feel while also giving a few more glimpses into the singer’s most recent loved-up, happy chapter in her life. 

In addition to the bonus tracks, the deluxe edition features the Doja Cat and Megan Thee Stallion-remixed “34+35.” Grande posted snippets of every unheard song and, days before, even revealed their names during the “34+35” remix music video premiere: “someone like u (interlude),” “test drive,” “worst behavior,” and “main thing.” Answering fan questions, Grande said she had deliberated between swapping “my hair” for “main thing” and had trouble deciding whether “test drive” or “love language” would be on Positions. The deluxe tracks, she revealed, had also been recorded and made with the rest of the tracks on the original album. The information gives the tracks some special grounding: they were not old scrapped projects or last-minute afterthoughts. Instead, they flush out the picture that Positions has already painted, resplendent with vulnerability, euphoria, adoration, and maturity. 

“someone like u” is the older sister of the named-for-an-ex interlude of Sweetener (2018), trickling in gently with sparkling notes and building trumpets. Echoing the title single “positions,” the song repeats the phrase “too good to be true,” signaling once again that Grande has settled into love gratefully and gracefully. Paced snaps and skips breeze by in the background to Grande’s angelic hum of “you, you, you,” buried in artful layers of harmonies and vocalizations. Characteristic of an interlude, “someone like u” leaves listeners wishing for more, especially due to the sweet simplicity of happiness that the song so clearly conveys. 

The next track is more up-tempo, yet still carries traces of Grande’s artistry. Just like the fan-favorite ballad “Honeymoon Avenue,” the first track from her debut album Yours Truly (2013), the second new song off of Positions (Deluxe) centers around an extended metaphor about driving. This time around, Grande rejoices, “No second guessing, checking the rearview / Ain’t looking back unless it’s right at you,” to a glittering disco beat. Her gentle cooing revs to a high before soaring into the chorus, “No, I don’t feel the need to test drive nothin’.” The repetition and upbeat nature make for a catchy little tune, and the song features hums and the shining softness of Grande’s lower register. It halts to a stop, ending the track at just a few seconds over two minutes, the shortest full-fledged song on the album. 

The already-familiar “34+35 Remix” sits confidently in the middle of the deluxe-specific tracks, bolstered by the spunky flirtiness of Doja Cat (who reappears here after the earlier Positions track “motive”) and the bold, pounding lyrical cartwheels that Megan Thee Stallion never fails to provide. Grande leaves more than enough room for both featured artists to put their own spin, thereby avoiding falling into the tired trap of only minor changes in the remix or something slapdash. 

Grande opens “34+35”, with its beautiful string arrangement and surprisingly innuendo-filled declarations, before ducking out. Doja picks up the baton easily, launching into verbal fireworks. She weaves between excited yips and playful bravado: “Six o’clock and I’m crushin’ / Then it get to seven o’clock, now he want it.” After Grande re-enters for the chorus, Megan injects her own swaggering declarations, keeping her flow fast and heavy over the plucking strings. While her lyrics are a bit unusual at times (“rock you like a baby,” “make his toes point, ballerina, no tutu”), the power she brings to the song is impressive nonetheless. 

The opening of “worst behavior” has a retro echo, synth, and jazzy snaps, while Grande shares her inhibitions: “Baby it’s just in my nature / To be a little troublеmaker.” The song takes turns, from jazzy to whispered, before a spoken, jaunty chorus. With the lyrics “No phone, no pics, no postin’ us / This love just ain’t disposable,” Grande tells listeners through the music the reason for her growing online silence, a conscious decision that contradicts her earlier years of Instagram posts from behind the scenes, Snapchats from her daily routine, and everyday Tweets talking with fans. The song is a smooth, pleasant track, but a bit underwhelming for a track titled “worst behavior.” 

The deluxe edition ends perfectly, though, with “main thing.” Strings fading in and out begin the slow, sweet track, reminiscent of “pov.” The song presents the gentle, simple surety of love: “All I wanna do is spend my time with you / Even when the learning’s done and nothing’s new,” sings Grande. The pulsing, light beat joined with Grande’s adoring “You, oh, you’re really different baby / You, you, might be the main thing, baby” of the chorus makes a recipe for success. 

The eagerly-awaited deluxe tracks are almost too short, with the longest of all four, the ending “main thing,” hitting less than the two-and-a-quarter-minute mark. However, the deluxe tracks accomplished what they were meant to: they gave a bit more hint of the love that saturates the tracks of the original set, all while respecting and maintaining the existing narrative of growth and change. Grande’s uniquely luscious vocals are perfectly suited for each brief, additional ode to romance. Maybe she simply proves that good things really do come in small packages. With P0sitions (Deluxe), Grande clarifies even more that where she is now is the best she’s ever been. 

Emma Chuck
Emma is a senior in the College majoring in English.

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