Reality TV host, screen siren and – in case you forgot – one of the most consistent British pop singers of 2018. So why do so many loathe her? This week's PINADW is dedicated to the divisive and, despite what you think, rather brilliant Rita Ora: a star who – according to Douglas Greenwood – has let tabloids set the stage for her own killer pop comeback.
I really don’t give a fuck about what people try and tell me: I reckon that the Pop Star Rita Ora™ is rather brilliant, and I have my reasons why.
Don’t worry, I’m not totally stupid: I do understand the criticisms. I get why pop culture critics roll their eyes at her every time they remember how she somehow segued from a promising pop career into a role in an erotic thriller designed to titillate someone’s mum. Or when she somehow slipped into Tyra Banks’ shoes for a bit hosting a show about modelling that, realistically, she wasn’t all that qualified for. ‘For fuck’s sake!” the people cry, “Why can’t she just be a pop star?’
Don’t worry, if anybody’s been desperate for a follow-up to 2012’s ORA, it’s been this petty and impatient writer. But I can sympathise with our Rita, a former shoe shop worker who got signed to Jay Z’s Roc Nation, only to be thrown about in label disputes about where her ridiculously delayed sophomore record – one I’m certain she’s recorded at least eight times – would be released next. Throughout it all though, regardless of how mad things behind the scenes were, she managed to latch on to pop cultural relevancy when the odds were stacked against her.
So here are four concise and incredibly convincing arguments as to why Rita Ora deserves your attention and why the new album will make us forget the last six years ever happened. That’s right: Trump; every Tory piping up in a place their voice isn’t needed; Jason Manford’s music career – all of the awful things that came to the fore while Rita was on a pop hiatus will be erased from history when Phoenix drops on November 23rd 2018. Get ready!
The singles all slap!
OK, so I know that we all still think making real music involves playing gee-tars and writing every word of your own tunes without any kind of assistance (neither of these, as far as I know, are things that Rita Ora can attest to), but that doesn’t mean the songs she’s releasing aren’t perfectly preened pop bangers that are far better than the cesspit of shite out there.
Even ‘Your Song’, a track written with pop’s demonic overlord Ed Sheeran was such a modest comeback single that feels so refreshing in an age of proudly confrontational, ‘fuck you’ pop penned for women. ‘Anywhere’, its follow up, had the best instrumental, vocal-loop breakdown of any chart song last year and caused her to bop about on a giant dance mat on The Jonathan Ross Show (what more could you want?!). Girls, the so-called ‘bisexual bop’ that catalysed a quite silly and old fashioned controversy around queer appropriation literally dragged Rita out of the closet. At the end of it all, we realised it was just a fizzy and facetious pop song that probably wasn’t as harmful as so many tried to make it out to be. And the latest, ‘Let You Love Me’? It sees Rita enlist the ultra-cool PC Music producer Easyfun to form a searing and emotional club hit that makes me want to swing my arms in reckless abandon and cry like my cat just died. If you don’t like it, I don’t like you.
Tabloids may try, but she’s unconquerable
“Rita Ora courts attention…”; “Viewers SLAM Rita Ora…”; “Rita Ora suffers a MAJOR make-up calamity”. If the Daily Mail isn’t berating Rita for being attention-seeking, they’re picking apart her outfits to either objectify or body shame her. Back when the rumours that she was the infamous ‘Becky with the Good Hair’ started circulating, she navigated the hearsay like a pro and shut down bullshit stat. The thing is, when your career isn’t necessarily following the path it’s meant to, you automatically become fair game for social media and tabloid scrutiny, and publications will try and frame you as a failure at every possible opportunity.
In a 2017 interview, she told The Guardian that she saw herself as a “360-degree artist”, and that she had the right to do whatever she liked. Despite the fact she wasn’t releasing music, she still reportedly bagged a cool £3 million in 2016 alone through endorsement deals and presenting jobs. They might not be her biggest passion, but still, that’s not bad for someone the tabloids are trying to talk shit about at every possible opportunity.
In the messy battle for the ‘pop princess’ tiara, she knows her place
Trust me, pop can get ugly extremely quickly when the stans of pop’s women are brought into the fold. The internet is constantly awash of people pitting everybody against each other: Cardi vs Nicki (we know that got messy), Katy vs Gaga, Britney vs Gaga, Old Gaga vs New Gaga… the list is endless. And while these conversations often conjure up hot takes more fruitful than the overbearing hoo-haa might suggest, sometimes it’s nice to exist outside of it.
Perhaps a more positive byproduct of the time Rita’s spent out of the musical spotlight is that the internet isn’t pitting her directly against anybody. She’s got plenty to prove to a lot of naysayers, but she’s no longer hindered by existing on that tier of hot debate. Instead, it seems like people are still trying to figure out if they’re in the pro- or anti-Rita camp. It might seem a little neggy at first – to have to prove your worth over half a decade into your pop career still – but her slow-trickle single technique is working. People are buying into Rita’s bangers at an unprecedented rate.
You can shit-talk all you like, but the charts don’t lie
You might struggle to find someone who will publicly back everybody’s favourite pop scapegoat, but the numbers don’t lie. With the exception of Girls (WILL SOMEBODY, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, LET CHARLI XCX HAVE ANOTHER FUCKING HIT?!) which charted just outside the top 20, every single she’s dropped from this new era has earned a top 10 spot. Even that slightly naff Liam Payne one from Fifty Shades! Case closed.
It might have taken her a while, but Phoenix is finally upon us, and so I urge you all to stock up your nuclear bomb shelters with tins of Aldi tuna and 30p own-brand cola in preparation for the impending pop apocalypse. Let’s not forget that there were 12 years and 5 days between Kate Bush’s ‘The Red Shoes’ and her first effort of the 21st century, 2005’s ‘Aerial’. Long story short: LEGENDS NEED TIME. LET RITA ORA HAVE HERS.