This is not a drill: the new Ariana Grande album Dangerous Woman has got it all. Smooth, sweet ballads; dance floor pop, sex appeal, and collaborations with superstars like Lil Wayne, Macy Gray, Nicki Minaj, and Future. Well, I say all. "All." Because there's one key track missing. Why, you may be asking yourself, isn't Grande's single "Focus" on Dangerous Woman? You'll probably remember it more from the visuals in the video than the actual track itself: commenters argued that it amounted to little more than a cynical rehashing of Grande's hit 2014 collaboration with Iggy Azalea, "Problem." The video itself was pretty cool though: we got to see Grande with anime character style grey/blue hued hair.
It was billed as being the first track off the album now known as Dangerous Woman (formerly titled Moonlight), but Grande clearly had some concerns about the tonality of the hit. Now the single only appears as a bonus track on the Japanese version of Dangerous Woman and has been completely axed off all other versions of the album. But why? Could it be purely down to lackluster reviews from even Ariana Grande-worshippers? Or was there a more objective reason to leave the hit off Dangerous Woman?
The reviews of "Focus" were pretty brutal. Reviews like the following, from Idolator, were pretty typical of the general nonplussed response to the release:
"I played 'Focus' three times in a row, and I’m still trying to figure out if that pseudo-funky non-chorus is an actual chorus. The tune is simply boring and is another reminder that pop has been generally mediocre (save for a couple of gems) this year."
However, if we look to Grande herself for a response, we find a clue in a radio interview she had with British radio station KISS last year.
Even back then, Grande seemed to be entertaining doubts about how different "Focus" seemed from the rest of the album. When asked why she put "Focus" as the first track of the album, she explained:
"...I put ‘Focus’ first because it’s the only one that sort of sounds like that. I’ve been putting little snippets on my Snapchat here and there of a couple things, but I can’t say yet because it’s not done."
It would make sense if "Focus" has a completely different tone to the rest of the album (which, having listened to Dangerous Woman a few times through, I'd argue it does) to just bump it off the album completely, especially given the unenthusiastic response to the track by critics and public alike. Personally, I think the album's all the stronger and more coherent for the track's omission. Well played, Grande.