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Review: On “Positions (Deluxe),” Ariana Grande is a colorful storyteller with a lighthearted touch

Ariana Grande from the neck up looking to her left with a bright white filter over the entire picture
Ariana Grande’s deluxe edition of “Positions” released Feb. 19. (Republic Records)

With Ariana Grande’s “Positions (Deluxe)”, the artist builds on her momentum and introduces listeners to some of her sweetest songs yet. While “Positions” came out (on short notice) in October of 2020, Grande released the Deluxe Edition on Feb. 19, 2021, intent on sharing songs she recorded alongside the original album’s lineup. 

“They were recorded with the original batch of music, which is why I wanted to glue them because I felt like I, in my head I always envisioned them coming out as a part of this era, this chapter, this storyline, this album,” Grande said in a YouTube livestream. “It felt like they needed to be heard and they needed to be, kind of, give the album a second life down the line. I always kinda envisioned it that way.” 

With the deluxe-reissue of the album, Grande released 5 new tracks: “someone like u – interlude,” “test drive,” “worst behavior,” “main thing” and a remix of “34+35” featuring rap artists Doja Cat and Megan Thee Stallion. The music video for the re-upped “34+35” finds the women relaxing together at a picturesque hotel, balancing sexy and silly to create campy scenes with a vintage twist. 

It’s hard to consider the song’s remix as better or worse than the original version because it just is so different. The song’s plucky string instrumental is relatively minimalist, allowing Doja Cat and Megan Thee Stallion to mold it until it fits their styles, which they do with ease. If anything, these two rappers, currently at the top of their respective games, steal the show from Grande at times in the remix. Overall, the song contains a huge amount of fun and playful innuendos. 

The four solo songs on the deluxe release of “Positions” build off the album’s success in songwriting and vintage-inspired, laid-back production. Grande knows her niche well and has played to her strengths especially effectively with her most recent albums. However, this can create a touch of too much familiarity in her discography. “Someone like u – interlude” could fit right in on an album like “Sweetener.” Because she is so talented, it would be fun to see her break out of her box a bit more. 

Grande is at her strongest on “Positions (Deluxe)” when she is trying something new. “Test drive” is a sparkling track that interpolates a Muzak-y, vaporwave-style sample and a pretty flute run that evokes ABBA’s “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight).” The lyrics find Grande in love and confident in her choice of a partner. 

“No I don’t feel the need to test drive nothin’,” she sings. “Baby, I’m sold on you, so I don’t ever gotta.”

The song is sly and sweet, with Grande’s voice as strong as ever. While “test drive” fits in with the rest of “Positions,” it is a sonically unique touch to the tracklist. The retro bounciness of “worst behavior” sets Grande up for success in her vocals, creating an infectiously-lively chorus. “Main thing” is similarly robust, but lacks the extra oomph needed to put it on par with “test drive” and “worst behavior.”

Overall, the newly released tracks on “Positions (Deluxe)” fit the vibe of the rest of the album, creating a cohesive sound. In the deluxe release, Grande proves she still has tricks up her sleeve. 

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