With two highly acclaimed albums and multiple Big Pop Smashes (TM) under her belt, Ariana Grande’s toured the world, appeared on a Ryan Murphy show (hello, gruesome Scream Queens death), developed her own fragrance line, licked some donuts (she’s sorry), and sung with huge stars like Andrea Bocelli and Chris Martin along the way.
It’s been a year and change since the release of Grande’s sophomore album, My Everything, and the only new music fans have gotten in those 14 months was a feature on Cashmere Cat’s glitchy, wonderfully weird “Adore.” Now the 22-year-old’s back to change that with “Focus,” the lead single from her upcoming album, Moonlight (due in early 2016) as well as its pastel-patterned music video.
“Focus” comes loaded with heavy hitters underneath its glimmering pop veneers: writing credits go to Grande, Ilya Salmanzadeh (“Love Me Like You Do” and “Problem”), Savan Kotecha (“Can’t Feel My Face” and “Love Me Harder”), and Peter Svensson (a member of the Cardigans, the Swede also wrote “Carly Rae Jepsen’s “I Really Like You”).
As for the song itself: it’s a horn heavy piece of retro-modern fusion, almost as if someone took a big jazz band and demanded they put forward a pop song in the style of Max Martin. That said, the vocals lack any real excitement from a star who’s got the restraint and skill to take her instrument places most other pop singers can’t anymore; the man howling the faux chorus (it’s impossible to consider what’s there an actual refrain of any weight) of “Focus on me” over and over gets grating quickly; and it’s a bit too in line with “Problem” to be considered a real step forward. It’s undoubtably a catchy slow-burn, though. “Focus” and its video are below for you to decide for yourself.