Rita Ora – ‘ORA’ (LP)
Since smashing onto the scene earlier this year as the vocalist on the DJ Fresh smash Hot Right Now, considerable buzz has been rising about Rita Ora ever since. Indeed, by joining the Roc Nation family, she joins female powerhouses such as M.I.A, Santigold and, of course, Rihanna. As such, it is no surprise that she is the proud holder of an impressive chart record; three UK number ones in one year, each selling over the impressive 100,000 copies barrier. Yet, with such high hopes and expectations for the London singer’s debut album, it’s somewhat of a disappointment.
The album is an album of two halves; a set of impressive tracks slotted between a succession of more generic offerings. When Ora is good, she’s fantastic. Radioactive is pure pop euphoria courtesy of two of pop’s biggest current names; Sia Furler (David Guetta‘s Titanium) and Greg Kurstin (Kelly Clarkson‘s Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)). Here, Ora is at her finest with a catchy, unrelenting pop hook over a wonderful, feel-good production that manages to maintain a commerical-dance sound without sounding like anything else that’s been released in the last couple of years. Shine Ya Light is also enjoyable; it’s feel-good message combined with the brilliant production courtesy of Fraser T Smith makes for an undoubtedly enjoyable pop song. Additionally, Roc The Life captures the fun and care-free nature of Ora herself, and the addictive hook in the chorus has the ability to lodge itself in your brain for weeks. Yet, it’s these bursts of brilliance that makes the rest of ORA so disappointing. Take, Fall In Love; Ora’s collaboration with Will.i.am; a producer notoriously sporadic in the level of quality in his productions. Fall In Love is so unnecessarily auto-tuned and devoid of anything remotely original or interesting, it makes Cheryl’s latest album sound like Whitney Houston in her prime. It makes Ora’s rich and soulful voice sound cheap and, most disappointingly, removes any uniqueness that Ora brings to the table. It’s a bad Black Eyed Peas reject; and that’s being kind.
Elsewhere, Been Lying is an acceptable ballad that I nearly skimmed over, until reading that Diplo was its producer. Diplo! The man who produced such wacky, amazing, genre-changing pop such as M.I.A‘s Paper Planes and Nicola Roberts‘ post-Girls Aloud declaration of independence and identity, Beat of My Drum; reduced to middle-of-the-road Kelly Clarkson-copying balladry! Elsewhere, his production credits on this record aren’t any more exciting; Hello, Hi, Goodbye seems destined to be used in the background of a future BT advert. Only album-opener, the phenomenal Facemelt harks back to the exciting, boundary-pushing music Diplo usually puts his name to. A shame, considering more of this exciting style of future-pop could have given this album the injection of life and excitement it so desperately needs.
You see, this is where Rita Ora falls short on this debut record. There’s nothing here that’s even remotely shocking or exciting. It’s all very pedestrian and mostly, polite. Of course we hear a few F-bomb expletives along the way, but when the label-mate you are so often compared to dedicates an entire song on her latest record to metaphors for oral sex, it’s hard not to think Ora’s music is all being played slightly too safe at present. Although R.I.P still sounds fresh to this day, and follow-up and recent number one How We Do (Party) is undoubtedly a fun and catchy affair, it’s still a bit of a damp squib when compared to the party anthems of recent years. It certainly lacks the fun and frivolity of Katy Perry‘s similarly themed Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F)’. It’s telling that one of the album highlights is her feature as guest vocalist on DJ Fresh‘s Louder; it sounds as fresh and exciting as it did when it was first released. However, it was presumably shoe-horned onto the end of the record to give the album a much-needed boost; it would be understatement to suggest things get a bit stale nearing the end of the record. Yet it’s not all bad news; Uneasy recalls P!nk in her prime, whilst Love and War recalls the dark pop brilliance of Rihanna’s Rated R record.
It’s clear from ORA that Rita has lots of potential. Yet, the overriding issue with this debut is its sense of anonymity. For the most part, it could be anyone singing these tracks, and very little effort is made to distinguish Ora from the crowd. Being launched after such strong debuts from the likes of Jessie Ware and Lianne La Havas, I can’t help but feel that Ora’s pales in comparison. Her voice, when left untampered with, is strong, rich and soulful, and her acoustic appearances prove this. Furthermore to this, on the all-too-rare occasions where Ora’s personality shines through, the results are magnificent. As such, it’s clear that Rita Ora is a potentially exciting, talented artist that simply hasn’t utilised her talent effectively. ‘ORA’ is by no means an unadulterated flop; it’s just not the confident debut we were expecting either. All this points to an artist that has far more to give; an artist who has unfortunately followed the crowd with this debut, when we all expected her to triumphantly lead from the front.
Release Date: August 27th 2012 (UK)
Label: Roc Nation