Is Ariana putting the Focus on an old trick? Maybe, but lack of originality is not a Problem here.
Successful artists in the mainstream are often caught reintroducing a hit’s structure in hopes of comparable applause; clearly, Grande is not the only one with a formula here. In fact, it is no secret that in terms of melody, Lady Gaga’s Judas is simply a replica of Bad Romance with a sprinkle of Poker Face added to the bridge. & It’s also not a coincidence that most of her singles are minor keys. Same thing goes for Sia’s chorus for Alive, which she divides in four segments, hitting a higher note & almost letting her voice crack on the third one, serving us Chandelier retrospect. But for the most part, it is not revolting whatsoever; as long as artists are able to reinvent themselves every now & then to keep the public hooked, there is no harm in using a blueprint more than once.
Hence, although Focus is an obvious attempt to re-create Problem, it remains a great record.
To start things off, Max Martin & Ilya Salmanzadeh did an astounding job on the production. Keeping in mind that they both worked on Problem, every beat hits right where it should. Not to mention the way the verses embark on the pre-chorus – which sounds just like head in the clouds got no weight on my shoulders – making every soul’s spine in the room shiver. Then enters the chorus, which doesn’t play up to its predecessor’s build up, but still manages to carry the tune. This is, above all, where the throwback hits the most: the trumpets, the Big Sean substitute, the minimal beats, it’s simply too pronounced to be ignored. But ultimately, Ariana’s vocals are on point, so obscene criticism can stay shut.
Now let’s talk about the video for a second. On a scale of American trash metal band to Buffy, how hard were you slayed? I think it’s fair to agree on slayed af. The color scheme is a perfect fit, the dance moves are just sway-ish enough to make the diva look good without being too hard to follow, & the countless eye contacts with the camera are to die for. & To top it off, we’ve got Ariana embracing the life out of a grey wig, which is a striking – & most probably unintentional – shout out to MAX. Indeed, the Drag Race references will never end on this blog.
Additionally, damsel Grande was serving some iconic leotard-boots-ponytail realness, working that signature look once again. Essentially, all there is to nail down is that the video’s aesthetic is the definition of refined & polished; simple, neat, yet immaculate – Hannah Lux Davis is serving (directing) for the Gods.
Yet, despite the song’s lyrics being very empowering, the video’s tone – or even Ariana’s entire career style wise – fosters pedophile culture. It might seem shocking, but bear with me through this train of thought. Ariana stated the following: «When I say focus on me […] I’m not asking you to focus on my face or my clothes or my body or my singing voice […] Focus on what I’m all about and what I believe in.” It is obvious here that the record is intended to combat a sexist & superficial society that strictly focuses on a woman’s image & neglects what she actually has to say. Unfortunately, intention doesn’t always equal impact.
Considering the bias of today’s society, Ariana’s aesthetic follows a movement that encourages women to work against their natural features in order to maintain childlike features. Curves & body hair are quickly replaced by bone-structured slim silhouettes & smooth skin, turning a woman’s motherly appearance into a silly playful rosy-cheeked child.
Given these points, should we hold Ariana accountable for soaking up pedophile culture? I wouldn’t suggest that; it is more about what is wrong with society, & less about a specific pop star’s image. At the very least, we can appreciate the effort she has made by trying to empower her young following. Nevertheless, who says that kind of image is wrong in the first place? All we did here was make an observation, neither good nor bad; it is yours to decide of its prospect.