Friday, December 4th, 2020

Ariana Grande – 34+35

What’s the square of five-something?


Katie Gill: This is a halfway-decent sex jam that doesn’t realize how objectively silly and goofy it is and it absolutely killed any goodwill I had for the song when Ariana explains the joke at the end. Girl! You can trust us! Your fandom isn’t comprised solely of 14-year-olds anymore!

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: This is the sound of someone telling bad jokes, but enjoying it so much that you can’t help but laugh anyway. 2020 has been so awfully serious; it’s refreshing to hear a celebrity engaging in some good old-fashioned trolling. Even removed from the more X-rated jokes here, just the way that Ariana yelps “I’ve been drinking coffffeeeee” is one of the funniest moments in 2020 pop. It’s shamelessly stupid, joyful, and playful — I think about it every morning when I have a cup. 

Alex Clifton: “Why is the internet saying Ariana’s going to release a whole album about sex?” I wondered back in early October. “I think they’re reading into it. ‘Positions’ could be in reference to positions of power, or political positions, or anything else. Ari could have some surprises up her sleeve.” Reader, I maintained this position as the tracklist dropped, reading through titles like “Nasty” and “34+35.” I literally did not do the math until the end of this song, when Grande says “it means I wanna 69 with you, no shit.” I tell you all this so you know what kind of dumbass I am, as I fully expected this to be some sort of weird mystical numerical reference. Instead it’s romantic, sentimental strings paired with a bunch of double entendres (which become single entendres as the song reaches its, er, climax). It’s goofy and silly and Grande is the only artist I can think of who could make a song like this work. It’s her sonic wheelhouse and she’s able to make it sound so smooth but also with a sly wink and a nod at the end. Compared with “WAP,” the year’s other overt sex jam, it’s twee, but both showcase different sides of female sexuality explicitly in a way that balances one another out. I don’t find it as repeatable as “WAP,” which I listen to once every three days, but it’s a pleasant and fun offering from Grande. Please note that my actual score is a [6.9].

John Seroff: Maura Johnston’s excellent and only lightly coded review of Positions in Time crystallized my thinking on just why one of the best albums of the year seems to be mostly leaving reviewers nonplussed: it’s a collection of songs by a woman clearly and severely impacted by trauma (“all them demons helped me see shit differently”) that is nonetheless firmly centered on her desire for pleasure and orgasm. That is a treatise and perspective that the pop market is clearly ready for; many critics are not. “34+35” is among Positions’ more risibly ribald fripperies, a faux-demure Disney Family Singalong about oral sex with just enough vocal acrobatics and bass to merit repeat play. It is, as I doubt I’ll be the only Jukeboxer to point out, nice.

Leonel Manzanares de la Rosa: Mmm… Nice?

Crystal Leww: I am not the only person who has noticed that many songs on the new album sound like the Mii song, and none more so than “34+35.” Unfortunately for Grande, it also means that the production is more suitable for background music while picking how your character looks in a video game suitable for all ages than a song about having sex until morning. It’s not just that there’s cognitive dissonance — which can be a good thing — but it’s that it’s literally music that’s meant to be tuned out. 

Vikram Joseph: The dissonance between the diaphanous texture of “34+35” and its extremely libidinous lyrics is certainly arresting, at least on the first couple of listens. The element of surprise is rarely enough to sustain a song, though, and once you’ve got used to the idea that Horny Ariana sounds almost exactly the same as Self-Affirmative Ariana, she sounds far too comfortable here — truthfully, she’s been on autopilot for some time now. “34+35” never threatens to be more than the sum of its insubstantial parts.

Nortey Dowuona: The plucked, irritable strings watch the bass cubs nip impatiently at Ariana’s heels as the synths place a tighter hand on her shoulders. Her echoes shoo off the bass cubs while the strings and synths squeeze her a bit more, then the bass cubs rip out the cable cord and Ariana throws her hands up, sending her echoes after them while she tries to pry the strings and synths off. The bass cubs leap on her lap, looking so cute that she decides to take them for a walk, leaving the strings and synths to sit on the couch while Ari and her echoes play with the cubs.

Thomas Inskeep: I think it’s kind of hilarious to hear Grande using her upper, breathy, cutesy-poo register to sing a song in which she asks her man to “fuck [her] till the daylight,” whose title is unsubtle code for “69.” “34+35” isn’t much, though a few of its lyrics make me chuckle mildly, but I like what Grande does with it just enough.

Kayla Beardslee: If you’re gonna write a song about sex, couldn’t you at least make it… sexy? My primary impression of “34+35” is that I’m watching Ariana brag about her sex life on the other side of one-way glass, and, unsurprisingly, that doesn’t do a whole lot for me. She has the world’s attention, one of the best voices in pop, and the clout and friendships to set up whatever studio sessions she wants — I just can’t help but set my standards for her music higher than “middling pop-R&B fare.” The strings are nice, her voice sounds really pretty, and not every punchline is bad (I thought “Done at the same time / But who’s counting the time when we got it for life?” was a fun couplet). But two of Ariana’s biggest weak points are lyrical finesse and singing with real intention, and the simple production here doesn’t do anything to cover those things up. I would have given this a four, except I deducted a full two points for “You drink it just like water / You say it tastes like candy.” Girl… no.

Katherine St Asaph: How, in catastrophically randy 2020, where the Overton Window of mainstream casual conversation attributed to your real name allows for OnlyFans and Zoom Dick Incidents and wet-ass pussy, does “34+35” pass for noteworthily lewd? The F-word alone does not X-ratedness make, especially when the song in which it’s cooed has bags-of-sand energy so strong one wonders whether its writers have ever had sex. (Not one person in coital history has 69’d from midnight to sunrise. Or even to, like, 12:20. Also, Drake made this joke ten years ago.) More charitably, this is so clearly the product of a generation that’s having less sex and filling the time with ever-more-rigorous wellness-optimizing, where everything dirty is made wholesome — I mean, her scandalous performance-enhancing drugs of choice are coffee and eating healthy! But this is Ariana Grande: even when the memes don’t work, there’s usually deceptively plush R&B production to compensate. On her Positions singles, that’s specifically been mid-aughts R&B. “Positions” was Craig David, and “34+35” is The-Dream (turns out Grande’s breathy high notes and thick background vocals sound as much like Mariah as her old producer), with some “Thong Song” in the strings too prim for their subject matter. But — much like math — this combo works better on paper. (An extra point because the wit missing from the lyrics apparently went to the lyrics video: a rotating 3D coffee cup whose handle becomes suggestively concave, and a bit with some fake movie code, except the language is — get it — Solidity. If that’s a deliberate joke, it’s amazing.)

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: Loops back and forth from the fun kind of dumb pop to the actively tiring kind so many times that I’m mostly impressed by what’s going on. Fortunately, the last second ad-libs tip Grande back over to the fun side of this at the buzzer, a fascinating case study on exactly how self-aware this kind of thing should be.

Austin Nguyen: As str***ht as the lyrics might be (“just gimme them babies,” “even though I’m wifey”), it seems the only time The Gays are good at math is when the classroom is run by Ariana Grande. And for good reason: “34+35” is one of the few Quarantine Horny Anthems that deserves, erm, finishing and one of the only songs on Positions to make full use of its strings, plucks and all. Of course, when I say The Gays, I really mean The Bottoms; the stereotypical top is not usually known for their coy reluctance to pull off an “I don’t wanna keep you up” or the ability to maintain “squeaky” hygiene (if anything, they’re infamous for a lack thereof). But whichever language your body talk is in (assuming it’s only one), Grande’s feather-light harmonies — which climax right on cue with “done at the same time” — make bedroom effervescence seem effortless. If only it were that easy…

Michael Hong: Spelling the joke out at the end — as if anyone didn’t understand it — just takes the fun out it. “Means I wanna 69 with ya” giggles Ariana, like the chorus was just a touch too subtle. At least she thought of another position.

Reader average: [6.66] (3 votes)

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5 Responses to “Ariana Grande – 34+35”

  1. This HAS to be the funniest set of blurbs I’ve seen all year… Michael and Katie’s blurbs calling out the joke; “cutesy-poo”; [6.9]; “str***ght” (welcome new writers!), the sequencing of John and Leonel’s blurbs; the capitalization of Horny Ariana; every link in Katherine’s blurb; “I deducted a full two points”

  2. I just want to know whose idea it was to put ethereum code into the ariana grande video

  3. LOL glad you enjoyed it Wayne

  4. My one remaining goal in life is to make it to the point where automatically parroting ‘nice’ to every instance of the number 69 goes back to being lame again.

    (which is not what’s happening here, both of the nices are doing _something_ with it, it just occurred to me)

  5. Ariana knows we know what it means, the joke at the end is that she’s overexplaining, the whole song basically goofs around, she even noted in an interview that she would not be interested in doing it ’till daylight’, it’s just her bullshitting. It’s all good fun!