You grant her pleasure, joie de vivre and time out. Grande, who grew to become a youth idol and soul star as a sensual, sweet voice wonder from 2013, has three hellish years behind her. In May 2017, a suicide bomber blew himself up in the foyer of the Manchester arena where she was giving her sold out concert. 23 people were killed, the singer suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. Barely a year and a half later, her ex-boyfriend, rapper Mac Miller, died of a drug overdose, the two of whom had separated only a few weeks earlier.
Grande dealt with these demons on her two albums “Sweetener” and “Thank You, Next”, on which she was more sober, adult and more vulnerable than before. Grande drew a lot of strength from the show of strength to confront grief and suffering, to work artistically on it instead of looking away and suppressing. “All these demons helped me see shit differently”, she sings in the opening track “Shut Up”, which makes it clear that she finds pity unattractive: “Don’t be sad for me”.
This unapologetic attitude is now revealed in the great musical clarity of “Positions” – and the casual insolence to just sing about fucking. Sex can heal emotional wounds, as soul god Marvin Gaye already knew, who had one of his greatest successes in the eighties with the lewd “Sexual Healing”. Janet Jackson’s sensual album “Janet” from 1993 is the musical and vocal godfather of Grande.
But Ariana Grande no longer has to hide behind role models. As with the previous album, she co-wrote all 14 songs – and apparently had a lot of fun encoding overly explicit things with funny metaphors so that her teenage fans can still listen without blushing (maybe she had her parents in the View).
Well, in some places she is as direct as it gets: “Can you stay all night, fuck me til the daylight”, she whistles in “34 + 35”. The sum of these two numbers is of course 69, which would also make it clear which position she would like for the sex marathon that night. “Six Thirty” is the name of another ballad, light as a sheet, with a lot of sweet satin soul, in which Grande asks casually: “Are you down, what’s up?”, As if it were a harmless evening at the Playstation. The position of the clock at 6:30 a.m. already points exactly in the direction where on your body your lover should go to work with his, uh, controller. The Netflix and chill version of the juicy summer hit “WAP”, if you will.