Two singles have been released to promote the album; the title track was released as the lead single on October 23, 2020, and "34+35" was made the second single alongside the album release on October 30. Positions received generally favorable reviews from music critics, with compliments towards Grande's vocals but criticism for its lyricism and production.
On April 19, 2020, it was first reported that Grande was working on new music. She also declared in May 2020 that she had recorded a song with Doja Cat earlier that year. In the same interview, however, Grande stated that she would not release an album during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown. On October 14, 2020, Grande announced on social media that her upcoming sixth studio album would be released the same month. Three days later, she posted a slow-motion video in which she types out the word "positions" on a keyboard. That same day, Grande's official website launched two countdowns counting down to October 23, 2020 and October 30, 2020. On October 23, 2020, she confirmed via her Twitter account that the album was coming on October 30 and posted the cover art. The tracklist was revealed the following day.
On October 27, 2020, Grande announced that two physical album covers are to be released in CD format in conjunction with the album. They were available for preorder on her website that day.
The title track "Positions" was released on October 23, 2020, as the album's lead single. The music video for the song was released on the same day. "34+35" was released on October 30, 2020, serving as the second single from album.
Positions received generally favorable reviews from music critics, who commended Grande's vocal performance and confidence, but criticized the lack of innovation in its production and lyrics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album has an average score of 71 based on 11 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Louise Bruton of The Irish Times labeled Positions a "big orgy of breathless R&B songs", and added that, even though "bangers" are scarce on the album, it solidifies Grande as one of pop music's leading voices. Mary Siroky, reviewing for Consequence of Sound, detailed the album as daring, "showy", "wildly theatrical", and filled with romance and flirtation, establishing a blend of Dangerous Woman (2016), Sweetener (2018) and Thank U, Next (2019). Siroky dismissed the guest appearances as the weakest points of the track-list. Brenton Blanchet of Clash called the album refreshing, giving plaudits for its "beautifully layered" orchestral runs and sweet harmonies, but asserted that Grande stays in a comfortable genre "she's all too familiar with".Vulture's Craig Jenkins appreciated Grande's "effortless" vocals, and pinpointed how the album is "risqué and unsubtle" in nature, but underlined its safe formula and presence of filler tracks.
Hannah Mylrea of NME affirmed that Positions is "jaw-droppingly good fun" as a record that finds Grande thriving, however, observed that the washy melodies result in a "swathe of indistinct songs", with inflated string arrangements, deficit of Grande's "trademark sparkle". Chris DeVille, writing for Stereogum, lauded Grande's "impeccable" vocals and "powerhouse" melodies, but downplayed the "least stimulating" production. He dubbed Positions as a solid Grande album, but deemed it premature and a "disappointment" in comparison to Sweetener and Thank U, Next.The Telegraph's Kate Solomon described the album as "sultry sexjams and thinly veiled euphemisms" with X-rated lyrics, softened by Disneyfied strings, but despite Grande shining new confidence, Positions "doesn't quite hit the spot".The Independent writer Adam White highlighted Grande's "spectacular" vocals and the album's push-and-pull dynamic, but felt the singer sticks to her comfort zone; White noted that Positions has "a touch of Spotify syndrome", with short songs to aid playlisting.
David Smyth, writing for the Evening Standard, praised Grande's voice as "a thing of great beauty", but remarked that she "isn't firing as hard as she was when she released her last two albums".Alexis Petridis of The Guardian concluded that the album reaches no climax, as it proceeds at a tiring pace, causing individual tracks blur into "one long slow-motion shot". Classifying Positions as a misstep in Grande's career, The Fader's Shaad D'Souza denounced its conversational style of vocals, "low-effort" lyrics and trend-chasing production. He thought the songs lacked distinction and punch, dissolving into a "swamp of icy drum hits and aimless melisma". Calling it a product of pandemic fatigue, Alexa Camp of Slant wrote that the album leans on "the same midtempo trap-pop" that were on Grande's previous two albums, and criticized the lyricism for its "empty" pillow talk and repetitive hooks. Bobby Olivier of Spin found Positions "sultry yet forgettable", with several "uninspired" or "unmemorable" tracks.
Andrew Keller – assistant recording engineering (track 8)
Sean Klein – assistant recording engineering (track 8)
^Limited physical editions of Positions were issued DTC with two other cover artworks, that feature the same photograph as above, except Grande is looking at the camera, with repositioned hands and face angle.