Why Ariana Grande’s “Focus” is Dropping Like a Rock at Radio, Even as YouTube Streams Remain Impressive

Do you think “Focus” is, should be, or should have been a hit?

With just over 30 million weekly audience impressions (30.482m, -4.056 m), Ariana Grande’s “Focus” is the fastest-falling song in terms of overall audience impressions today, beating out Dan + Shay’s “Nothin’ Like You,” which shed 3.849 million audience impressions. In fact, it is the fastest-moving song altogether, as Justin Bieber’s current smash, “Sorry,” only gained 3.644 million audience impressions today.

Why is “Focus” falling so quickly? 

According to Mediabase Callout Research, pop audiences just don’t like the song. In the most recent survey, “Focus” was rated positively by only 43.5% of listeners, as compared to 38.4% who disliked it. Her net positive score of +5.1% was the worst of all songs surveyed (which included all 32 currently charting pop songs that had audience familiarity of at least 60%). In fact, every other song had a net positive score of at least +17%. Also, “Focus” was listed as a favorite by only 9.5% of listeners, also the worst showing.

So, if Ariana’s song is so terrible, then why is it weird that it is falling so fast?

1) Callout numbers are improving.

Interestingly, the callout figures are actually an improvement over earlier callout reports, in which Ariana’s net positive score was approximately +0%. Why would Ariana’s callout numbers be improving just as radio starts abandoning her song?

2) Ariana’s performance of “Focus” at the AMA’s was EXTREMELY well-received.

Exhibit A, B, C, D, E, F, G

3) The “Focus” music video is getting tons of streams.

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 12.14.42 PM

If everyone hates this song and wants it to die, then why are 4 million people streaming it on YouTube ever day? This is a seriously impressive view-curve, competitive with recent massive hits by Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, Drake, and The Weeknd.

Last summer’s smash “Problem,” which is arguably Ariana’s biggest hit to-date, was only getting about 2 million views/day at its peak, and it never went over 3 million views, even as it became one of the ten fastest-selling singles in digital history in its first week.

This song has been out long enough that if it were a complete flop, its YouTube views would be dropping by now. They should have fallen faster, and they shouldn’t be popping back up (except on Saturdays).

4) The song is perfectly structured to be a smash pop hit.

Yes, to some extent, I am expressing my subjective impression of the song. But, I am not alone. When this song was released, radio programmers across the country were dead certain that it was a hit. It was rocketing up the radio charts at a seriously fast pace. Only Adele’s “Hello” was rising faster (for a while). Then, when callout finally issued its first report, and it turned out audiences weren’t entirely thrilled by the song, its progression stopped dead, after rocketing halfway up the chart. Radio programmers were confused, so they did nothing. The song was an obvious hit, but it was disliked by a huge number of people. So, they left the song at current levels, and slowly decided to start dropping it off their playlists.

Listen to last summer’s “Problem,” and then listen to “Focus.” Then tell me exactly why one song is beloved by audiences, and the other passionately hated. You can’t. The only salient difference between them is that one came out in 2014, before Ariana Grande’s last album became a massive success.

5) The music video for “Focus” is seriously emaculate.

Exhibit A: Ariana, wearing freaking amazing contact lenses in “Focus!”

Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 6.39.30 PM

Exhibit B: This is what she looks like when nobody is watching…

Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 6.41.34 PM

Exhibit C: “Who me?”

Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 6.41.16 PM

Exhibit D: Selfie time!

Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 6.40.27 PM

Exhibit E: Sleek profile shot.

Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 6.35.12 PM

Exhibit F: You’re totes jelly of mah nails bi-otch.

Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 6.34.35 PM

Exhibit G: Test tube baby.

Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 6.35.58 PM

Exhibit H: Wink!

Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 6.42.28 PM

Exhibit I: Just kicking it with mah tube friends (sisters?).

Screen Shot 2015-10-31 at 6.36.36 PM

Conclusion

Maybe the problem is simply a combination of simple and non-simple factors. Audiences loved “Problem,” because it was fresh and new. If it sounds like “Problem: Part 2,” then it is probably not going to excite people.

After a long string of hits from Ariana, radio programmers saw a song that preserved the best qualities of the biggest of the hits, and they immediately started putting it on heavy rotation. But audiences almost never love a song instantly. Audiences like songs that they know. That is why songs almost never debut in the top ten on radio songs. Even the biggest hits by the biggest artists in history take several weeks before they are allowed to reach #1 at radio. Radio programmers took a song that audiences were naturally inclined to be disenchanted with, and they committed the most grievous sin of all: they overplayed it too soon.

The song is still a solid one. The music video is captivating, and Ariana has a massive fan base. 40% of people can strongly dislike the song, and it will still get massive YouTube streams if 40% of people want to watch it on YouTube.

But, radio programmers thrive on not offending people. Radio doesn’t like risks. Radio programmers try to play music that is least objectionable, so that everyone can passively listen to it on their way to work. 40% dislike of a song is a big problem for radio, and that is why it is currently collapsing at such a rapid clip.

Do you think “Focus” is, should be, or should have been a hit?

— More —

The iTunes and Spotify Chart Positions of Every Ariana Grande Song in Every Country in the World 12/15/15 11:04AM Eastern. 

Focus

Santa Tell Me

One Last Time

Boys Like You

Break Free

Love Me Harder

Bang Bang

Problem

Almost Is Never Enough

Last Christmas

All My Love

E più ti penso

The Way

iTunes:


Baby I

Santa Baby

My Everything

iTunes:

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Published by

pdaines

Peter Daines is a law student at Georgetown University Law Center. His interests include studying foreign languages, watching and predicting events in politics and the music industry, and searching fruitlessly for the meaning of life.

3 thoughts on “Why Ariana Grande’s “Focus” is Dropping Like a Rock at Radio, Even as YouTube Streams Remain Impressive”

  1. Lets not leave out that kids these days are psychotic about pop stars.. (Not sure why) They will actually flood the internet telling all the little “Stans” to replay music videos on YouTube over and over all night, even if they are not watching…. So There Ya Go! Mystery solved.. Kids are lame. Haha!

    Like

  2. The song sounds like “Problem”.. that’s the Problem. Give the fans something new.. its too early in your career to be copying yourself.

    Like

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