It’s official—my parents are cooler than me. What finally confirmed this long-held suspicion? My parents are in Ariane Grande’s latest music video, “Positions.” Well, kind of. My parents are both postal carriers, and the USPS gets a cameo near the end of the video. With such an obvious connection to my life, how could I not review her latest hit?
Now, after watching and rewatching the video, if I had to describe Ariane Grande’s latest single in one word, it would be dissonance. This is not in reference to the music itself, as I consider it a compositional masterpiece that equally highlights the range of her vocals and her signature catchy chorus. Instead, the dissonance develops in the diverging messages of the single’s music video and the song’s lyrics. When paired with the music video, the song carries a feminist direction that argues for the complementary nature of the different aspects of a woman’s life. Throughout the video, we see Grande switching between radically different roles—from the president of the United States to a traditionally gendered role in the kitchen. These visuals hint at a secondary meaning to the song’s title beyond its obvious sexual one. But a discrepancy emerges in its message when “Positions” is played without the support of the music video.
Without the video’s stunning visuals, the song is seemingly stripped of its secondary layer of meaning that distinctly advocates for female empowerment. In fact, the lyrics themselves seem to exist in conflict with the visual message of female empowerment, as it largely seems to portray Grande’s willingness to embody various tropes for her partner’s satisfaction. “Jumping through hoops” like “[she’s] in the Olympics” to satisfy her partner just isn’t exactly comparable to her role as Commander-in-Chief in the music video. The political overtones of the video are a much-appreciated complication of the otherwise simple pop lyrics.
What could be the reasoning behind this divergence of messages between the different mediums of her latest single? While it’s easy to use this discrepancy to question Grande’s dedication to feminism, I interpret it as commentary on how she defines herself as an artist. In the same way that music-video Grande takes on multiple “positions,” she wants her song to engage with and employ multiple positions and viewpoints as well. The song’s dependence on the medium through which it is consumed allows “Positions” to be a versatile message on female empowerment. The multi-dimensional nature of Grande’s song reminds us that we aren’t defined by others’ one-dimensional interpretation of our choices.
Regardless of your interpretation, this song slaps. Perfect for your upcoming, socially-distanced Halloween party.