Focus (song)

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"Focus"
A picture showing a woman in a purple background with her arms through her body, her long ponytailed, platinum hair falls over her right shoulder. She wears a white mini skirt and a top.
Single by Ariana Grande
from the album Dangerous Woman (Japanese edition)
Released October 30, 2015 (2015-10-30)
Format
Recorded
Length 3:31
Label Republic
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)
  • Martin
  • Ilya
Ariana Grande singles chronology
"E Più Ti Penso"
(2015)
"Focus"
(2015)
"Boys Like You"
(2015)

"E Più Ti Penso"
(2015)
"Focus"
(2015)
"Boys Like You"
(2015)
Music video
"Focus" on YouTube

"Focus" is a song recorded by American singer Ariana Grande. It was released on October 30, 2015 on Republic Records, and was originally intended to be the lead single of Grande's third studio album, Dangerous Woman. "Dangerous Woman" replaced it as the lead single; the song was later removed from the standard-edition track listing, and was included as a bonus track on the album's Japanese version. The song was written by Grande, Savan Kotecha, Peter Svensson and its producers, Ilya Salmanzadeh and Max Martin. "Focus" features horns (saxophone, trumpet and trombone), with cowbells and handclaps as percussion. It was noted as musically similar to Grande's 2014 song, "Problem".

The song received generally mixed reviews from music critics. Some praised Grande's vocals and the song's brassy production, and others criticized its similarity to "Problem". "Focus" debuted at number seven on the US Billboard Hot 100, with 113,000 downloads in its first week. It was Grande's sixth top-ten single, and her first unaccompanied by another artist. The song also reached the top ten in Canada, Australia, Greece, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom. By January 2016, "Focus" sold 544,000 copies in the United States and was certified platinum by the RIAA.

Its music video, directed by Hannah Lux Davis, premiered on October 30, 2015 on Grande's Vevo channel. She performed "Focus" at the November 22 2015 American Music Awards and at the iHeart Radio Theater Los Angeles concert, and it was on the set list of the second leg of Grande's 2017 Dangerous Woman Tour.

Background and release[edit]

"Focus" was written by Grande, Savan Kotecha, Peter Svensson and its producers, Ilya Salmanzadeh and Max Martin.[1] Serban Ghenea mixed the song, aided by John Hands.[2] Grande began working on a new material for her third studio album in May 2015, posting details about the project on social media and in conversations with the public. The album was originally entitled Moonlight.[3] The singer posted an unfocused picture of herself on her Instagram page in July 2015 with the caption "Focus", calling it a "hint". A video released in September 2015 by iHeartMedia Music Summit demonstrated that Grande, Republic Records CEO Monte Lipman and her manager, Charlie Walk, played the song to the approval of the Republic Records staff.[4]

Grande announced the single during her September 15, 2015 appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, with a release date of October 30.[5] She began posting snippets of the song's lyrics, video and audio previews and pixelated versions of the single's cover in early October on Instagram and Twitter, and unveiled "Focus"' cover art on October 14. A week before the song's release date, A 15-second snippet of the track was used in a commercial for Ari by Ariana Grande, the singer's debut fragrance, a week before the song's release.[6] "Focus" was digitally released worldwide on October 30, 2015, and was added to hot adult contemporary playlists in the United States on November 2.

Removal from Dangerous Woman[edit]

The song was originally intended to be the lead single of Grande's third studio album, Dangerous Woman (then entitled Moonlight).[7] Republic Records later told Billboard that the track had been removed from the album's standard edition, with "Dangerous Woman" replacing it as the lead single.[8] However, the song is a bonus track on the album's Japanese version.[9][10] Vulture.com editor Dee Locket explained why "Focus" was not included on the album's final cut; the song's rollout was not "remembered as a success – it was calculated to a fault, too polished for a time when pop’s biggest stars, particularly its women, were letting their flaws bleed into the music."[11]

Music and lyrics[edit]

A smiling Jamie Foxx
Jamie Foxx sings "Focus"' chorus.

According to sheet music published by [[Kobalt Music ] on Musicnotes.com, "Focus" was written in the key of G minor and set in 4
4
time
at a moderate tempo of 98 beats per minute. Grande's voice ranges from C4 to G5.[12] A retro-styled song, "Focus" is based on a 1970s-inspired dance beat.[13][14][15][16] According to Ryan Reed of Rolling Stone, its instrumentation features "stabbing big-band brass" (with saxophone, trumpet and a trombone), smooth synths and clanging percussion with synthesized handclaps and a cowbell.[17] The song's horn foundation has been compared to Grande's 2014 single, "Problem" (featuring Australian rapper Iggy Azalea) from her album, My Everything.[18][19] In anEntertainment Tonight interview, Grande acknowledged "Focus"' similarity to "Problem"; she thought the former would be the "perfect transition record" from her last album to her new album, because it sounds like "Problem 2.0".[20]

Lyrically, Grande asks for attention and focus. According to Idolator's Robbie Daw, the pre-chorus resembles the intro of KC and the Sunshine Band's 1975 disco song, "That's the Way (I Like It)".[15][21] Marcus Floyd of Renowned for Sound wrote that in the second verse, Grande "addresses her haters and insists that they address her realness".[22] Its "funky" chorus consists of the repeated phrase, "Focus on me", sung by American actor Jamie Foxx in a bass voice.[23] Grande explained the hook:

When I say, "Focus on me", I'm not asking to be the center of attention. I'm not asking you to focus on my face or my clothes or my body or my singing voice. By "focus on me", I literally mean focus on me. Focus on what I'm all about and what I believe in. The more we focus on each other as people and not on what we look like, what we're wearing, our gender, our hairstyle, our sexuality, the color of our skin. But focus on each other on a soul level. The more we realize how much we have in common, the more we listen to each other, the more one we become.[24]

Critical reception[edit]

Amy Davison from Digital Spy praised "Focus"' "sax-driven" beat;[25] The Verge's Kaitlyn Tiffany called Grande a "massively talented vocalist", and "Focus" a "very pleasant" listen.[26] Time's Nolan Feeney noted that although it was similar to "Problem", it may not have been a poor single decision.[27] On Renowned for Sound, Marcus Floyd called "Focus" predictably "catchy and attention grabbing"; the song ticks "all the boxes of an effective lead single." Giving it four out of five stars, he wrote that "Focus" is one of Grande's "stronger single releases" to date but did not "venture out" of her "comfort zone."[22] Steven J. Horowitz of Billboard gave the song two-and-a-half out of five stars and wrote that Grande had never released a "less-than-great" single until "Focus", which he considered a "weak" rehash of "Problem".[28]

In a negative review, a Time magazine writer called "Focus" the sixth-worst song of 2015, calling Grande’s vocal "dwarfed" by "too-big instrumentals" as it had been on "Problem" and "Break Free"; however, the latter two had a "sustaining energy" which "Focus" lacked. The singer needed a "tightly constructed, elegant hit" after her 2015 doughnut controversy, "and this isn’t it".[29] Although Brennan Carley of Spin called the song a "catchy slow-burn" and a "horn heavy piece of retro-modern fusion", Grande's vocals lacked "real excitement from a star who’s got the restraint and skill to take her instrument places most other pop singers can't anymore." Carley criticized the song's "male howling" for "[getting] grating quickly" and making "Focus" too similar to "Problem".[18]

Commercial performance[edit]

"Focus" debuted at number seven on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States, selling 113,000 downloads in its first full week. Grande's sixth top-ten single and fourth top-ten debut on the chart.[30] It was her first solo top ten in the US, unaccompanied by another artist.[30] The song entered the Digital Songs chart at number five and was number 13 on the Streaming Songs chart, with 13.3 million domestic streams.[30] It fell to number 13 in its second week on the chart, rebounding to number 12 in its third week after Grande performed it at the 2015 American Music Awards.[31] By April 2018, "Focus" sold over 544,000 copies in the US and was certified platinum by the RIAA.[32] It debuted and peaked at number eight on the Canadian Hot 100, Grande's fifth Canadian top-ten single.

The song debuted at number ten on the Official Singles Chart in the United Kingdom, Grande's third top ten after the number-one singles "Problem" and "Bang Bang".[33] It peaked at number six in its third week, spending three weeks in the chart's top ten. "Focus" also reached the top ten in Australia, Austria, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain.[34][35][36][37]

Music video[edit]

Background and synopsis[edit]

Screenshot from the "Focus" video; according to Nick Maslow of People, Grande is in a "world of purple".[38]

Hannah Lux Davis, who directed "Focus"' music video (released on October 30, 2015), also directed the music videos for Grande's "Love Me Harder" and the singer's joint single, "Bang Bang".[39] The video features the Samsung Galaxy Note 5.[40] It begins with Grande texting the phrase "focus on me" on a cell phone. During the first verse, scenes of Grande lip-syncing the song are intercut with silhouettes of the singer dancing in a purple circle.

Grande then performs a choreographed routine with six backing dancers on a purple set. During the second verse, she smiles and poses in a square wearing a black mini dress and high boots. For the song's bridge, the singer (in a star-print leotard, photographed in black-and-white) lies on a neon-lit set, plays a trumpet and performs with her dancers.[41] The video ends with her right eye illuminated. Teen Vogue's Ella Cerón noted its "slightly throwback" visuals, which match the song.[42]

Reception[edit]

Sean Fitz-Gerald of Vulture called the video's geometric look similar to the videos for Drake's "Hotline Bling" (2015) and Lil Mama's "Lip Gloss" (2007).[43] Billboard's staff ranked the music video for "Focus" as Grande's seventh-best, describing it as "out-of-this-world" with "star-emblazoned jumpsuits and neon wigs" in an April 1, 2016 article; "the video looks like a clip straight out of Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century", and Grande's dancing was an homage to Beyoncé's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" (2008).[44]

Live performances[edit]

Grande performed "Focus" live for the first time on the Honda Stage at the iHeartRadio Theater in Los Angeles on October 30, 2015.[45] She also performed the song at the 2015 American Music Awards on November 22, ranked by Billboard as the best performance of the night.[46] According to Bruna Nessif of E!, Grande brought some "old Hollywood glamour" to the performance.[47] Grande performed "Focus" and a cover of "Zero to Hero" on Disney's Christmas Day special,[48] and the song was added to the set list for the second leg of Grande's 2017 Dangerous Woman Tour.

Track listing[edit]

Digital download[49]
No.TitleLength
1."Focus"3:31
Japanese CD maxi single[50]
No.TitleLength
1."Focus"3:31
2."Focus" (karaoke version)3:31
3."Extra" ("Message in Japanese from Ariana")0:40

Release formats[edit]

The Japanese CD maxi single set includes:

Regular edition[50]
  • One discs (CD single)
  • A mini-calendar
  • A mini-poster
Deluxe and limited edition[51]
  • One discs (CD single)
  • A poster
  • An A7-sized notebook

Credits and personnel[edit]

Recording

Management

Personnel

Credits adapted from the liner notes of Focus (CD Single).[2]

Charts[edit]

Certifications and sales[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Australia (ARIA)[93] Platinum 70,000^
Brazil (Pro-Música Brasil)[94] Diamond 160,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[95] Gold 40,000^
Italy (FIMI)[96] Platinum 50,000double-dagger
Poland (ZPAV)[97] 2× Platinum 40,000*
South Korea (Gaon) 56,000[98]
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[99] Gold 20,000^
Sweden (GLF)[100] Platinum 40,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[101] Silver 200,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[102] Platinumdagger 1,000,000[32]

^shipments figures based on certification alone
double-daggersales+streaming figures based on certification alone

dagger Since May 2013 RIAA certifications for digital singles include on-demand audio and/or video song streams in addition to downloads.[103]

Radio and release history[edit]

Region Date Format Label Catalog number Ref.
United Kingdom October 30, 2015 (2015-10-30) Digital download Republic None [49]
United States November 2, 2015 (2015-11-02) Hot adult contemporary radio [104]
November 3, 2015 (2015-11-03) Contemporary hit radio [105]
Italy November 6, 2015 (2015-11-06) Universal [106]
Japan December 4, 2015 (2015-12-04) CD maxi single (Regular edition) UICU-5016 [50]
CD maxi single (Deluxe and limited edition) UICU-9081 [51]

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