Given the timing of its release – it’s 11 days, in case you need reminding, until America goes to the polls – and the accompanying video, you would be forgiven for thinking Ariana Grande’s Positions is a direct statement about the upcoming elections, in the vein of Demi Lovato’s coruscating Commander in Chief.
After all, the video features the 27-year-old singer as US president, chairing cabinet meetings, holding press conferences and walking dogs on the White House lawn – and she makes some fine political jabs. The meeting she chairs features a distinctly more diverse cabinet than has ever existed in the White House; from the imagery, you could derive a general message that a woman could do a better job than the current incumbent; she hands out medals to postal workers, whose service Trump has been hampering.
The overall thrust is that society expects women to multitask in a way that men are not expected to – we see Grande covertly swigging from a bottle of wine as she attempts to balance her working life with her duties in the kitchen. If you were inclined, you could draw a parallel with Arlie Hochschild and Anne Machung’s study of attitudes to gender divisions in the household, The Second Shift.
But perhaps that’s gilding the lily a bit. After all, the song suggests that its protagonist is happy to multitask, as it displays her devotion to the object of her affections. Or as Grande puts it: “This some shit that I usually don’t do, but for you I kinda want to.” Meanwhile, the music – produced by Young Thug collaborator London On Da Track with long-term Grande collaborators Mr Franks and Tommy Brown – is low-key, if hooky and melodically strong pop-R&B, rather than the blockbusting eyes-on-stalks pop of Rain on Me, her Lady Gaga collaboration.
This fits with her other recent releases and perhaps tells you something about the strength of the commercial position Grande currently finds herself in. So famous she doesn’t need bells and whistles to attract attention, she has increasingly made a certain kind of musical understatement her brand while making laudably big political statements on social media – as well as in this new music video, currently getting well over a million views an hour.