The Hit Songs Deconstructed Wire




Released as the lead single from Ariana Grande’s forthcoming sophomore album, Problem is hands down one of the “hookiest” and expertly crafted Pop songs to come around in quite some time.

Every aspect of the song is primed for maximum impact.  The three diverse vocal talents (Grande, Azalea, and Big Sean) impart their own unique influence on the song. The engaging fusion of sub-genres & influences (Retro 90′s R&B, Pop, Dance, Hip Hop/Rap and Trap) work in perfect tandem with one another in providing the song with a fresh, unique nature, and the numerous irresistible hooks make Problem one of the most infectious, engaging and memorable songs out there.

A perfect example of just how well-crafted Problem is can be found within its intro.  As you know, the primary objective of an intro is to instantly hook the listener into a song, engage them, and hold their attention until the section that follows takes over, be it a verse or chorus.

Problem’s intro achieves all this and more as you’ll see below:

It Establishes Two of the Song’s Key Hooks

As mentioned before, the song is a total “hook fest.”  What better way to instantly engage the listener than to provide them with not one, but two key hooks in the intro, wetting the listener’s appetite for things to come.

This includes the ultra-infectious sax hook from the chorus, turnarounds and bridge, as well as the “one less one less pro-o-ble-m” vocal hook from the chorus and pre-chorus/chorus “hybrid” sections.

It Plugs the Featured Artist and the Song Title

Think of this as free marketing built directly into a song.  Azalea plugs both herself (“it’s Iggy Iggs”) and the song title (“I got one more problem with you girl”), while the vocal harmony hook, “one less one less pro-o-ble-m” gets the title in there one more time for good measure.

This technique is a great method for priming a song and artist for success in an airplay environment for the two following reasons:

  • It reduces or all out eliminates the guesswork on the part of the listener in trying to figure out what the title of the song is or who it’s by.  This enables them to quickly track it down with ease and hopefully make a purchase and become a fan.
  • It heightens the visibility and clout of the featured artists due to the fact that their names are heard every time the song is played.

An interesting point to note is that Azalea plugs herself but NOT Big Sean or Ariana Grande (and after all, it is her song!).  However, most featured artists will plug all of the artists involved, as is the case with Dark Horse where Juicy J plugs both himself and Katy Perry.

So what this means is that if the listener knows nothing about the song, they might actually think Problem is an Iggy Azalea song and not an Ariana Grande song.  Grande also misses out of the heightened visibility and clout that Azalea is receiving.   This is a topic that all artists should be paying attention to.

It Acts as a Unique Identifier for the Song

The entire intro, from the swell at the beginning right through the end, provides Problem with a unique identity that enables it to stand out and resonate amongst its mainstream contemporaries.  Bottom line? There’s no mistaking Problem’s intro for another song.

This, again, is especially important in an airplay environment.  The second a song comes on the air, it should cut through all the clutter, be instantly recognizable, snap the listener out of their daily “haze” and get them fully engaged within the song.

It Establishes the Primary Genre & Sub-Genre/Influencer Mix

Key elements within Problem’s intro instantly establish the following:

  • R&B:  The sax establishes the Jazzy R&B vibe of the song
  • Hip Hop/Rap:  Azalea’s dialogue provides the listener with a good inclination that there will be a Hip Hop/Rap element somewhere within the mix, given that she’s first and foremost  a Hip Hop/Rap artist
  • Pop:  While the song features multiple sub-genres, all of the elements within the mix fall under the Pop umbrella
  • Modern:  The swell at the beginning instantly provides the song with a modern/current flair
  • Retro:  The “one less one less pro-o-ble-m” vocal establishes the retro 90′s R&B vibe of the song.  The processing on the vocal even takes it back a step further back to the 30′s and 40′s!

It’s Multifaceted

Another core attribute of Problem’s intro is that new elements enter the mix frequently.  This does a fantastic job of keeping the listener engaged throughout.

  • 0:00 – 0:02:  Sax Swell enters
  • 0:02 – End of Section:  Sax enters (primary hook)
  • 0:02 – 0:05:  Giggles enter
  • 0:05 – 0:10:  Azalea’s dialogue enters
  • 0:09 – 0:11:  “One less one less pro-o-ble-m” vocal harmony enters (primary hook)

As you can see, a new, engaging element enters the mix once every two to four seconds, with most overlapping one another as well.  The listener is kept engaged at a peak level throughout, until the verse takes over and seals the deal.

It’s Short

All of the above is achieved in a very short amount of time – just 11 seconds!  When it comes to intros, the rule of thumb is “the shorter, the better” because you don’t want to give the listener the chance to get bored and tune out.

Bottom Line

As you can see, Problem’s intro achieves a lot more than simply kicking-off the song.   A well thought out and executed intro will take a song’s potential for success to a whole new level.  Problem is the perfect example.

This article features highlights and takeaways from our Problem Deconstructed Report. The full report provides you with a comprehensive analysis of what made the song a hit coupled with immediately actionable insights to help take your songwriting and producing skills to the next level. Hit Songs Deconstructed PRO subscribers can access the full report by clicking here.  Not a PRO subscriber?  Click here to find out what a PRO subscription includes.