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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Album Review: Phoenix

British singer Rita Ora serves mature pop bliss

Rita Ora released her sophomore album, “Phoenix,” on Nov. 23 almost seven years after the release of her first album, “Ora.” The drawn-out “Phoenix” release was partly due to legal conflicts with her former record label, Roc Nation. Her latest release is thoughtful but also unapologetically pop bliss. “Phoenix” alludes to her revival after her absence, which is present throughout her lyrics.

All four singles from “Phoenix,” including “Your Song,” “Anywhere,” “Girls” and “Let You Love Me” occupied the top ten song list in the UK — earning Ora the position of being the first female artist in the UK with 13 top 10 songs.     

The album’s release was drawn out with this series of singles starting with “Your Song,” which was released in May of last year. An airy, upbeat love song that talks about proclaiming one’s love for another, the single reflects a refreshing theme that occupied a significant portion of the album. “Anywhere” is adjacent to “Your Song” with its message, but electronic sounds heavily manipulate the melody. “Anywhere” reveals Ora’s soulful vocal capabilities. “Let You Love Me” is the most anthemic song on the album with its catchy chorus.

Ora discusses her sexuality in the track titled “Girls.” She fully admits to having an equal  interest in men and women through her lyrics: “I ain’t one-sided, I’m open-minded. I’m fifty-fifty, and I’m never gonna hide it. You should know.” The song received some backlash from fellow artist, Kehlani, in the mainstream news. Kehlani argued the lyrics were harmful to the LGBTQIA community — particularly when she sang “Red wine, I just wanna kiss girls […].” Ora responded by clarifying that her intention wasn’t to offend, and the song inspiration lies in her real-life experiences.

Pop is not the dominant genre associated with meaningful lyrics, but rather a feel-good “formula” meant to attract audiences, which it does. Ora, however, brings more to the table as she demonstrates superior songwriting and storytelling abilities.

“Cashmere,” my personal favorite, tells a story about Ora purposely leaving her cashmere sweater on her new lover’s floor with the intent of seeing them again — a careful crafting of words meant to resonate.  

“Only Want You” shares that same desire that’s seated in your gut as it starts stripped back with just Ora and the guitar. The raw lyrics “I don’t want somebody like you, I only want you” are the type of lyrics someone sings with one hand waving in the air and the other over their heart.

“New Look” is the summer anthem that never was. The way the chorus bursts with each word reminds me of placing a handful of Pop Rocks on my tongue as a child and being ecstatic.

While there was no title song (a personal pet peeve), Ora played with the metaphor of a phoenix in “Soul Survivor” when she sings, “I’m a soul survivor. I made it through the fire. I started with nothing, and I’ve got nothing to lose.” Ora decided that her pain wouldn’t be in vain — out of spite she came out the other end, though not ever specifying what happened.  

Written by: Josh Madrid – arts@theaggie.org


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