Rita Ora – Phoenix Words Lewis Cor­ner

Gay Times Magazine - - REVIEW -

Don’t you just love an al­bum ti­tle that ac­tu­ally means some­thing? Self-ti­tled has be­come way too com­mon in pop for our lik­ing, so when we found out that Rita Ora’s long, long, lon­gawaited sec­ond stu­dio col­lec­tion was called Phoenix, we were one-hun­dred-per­cent here for it be­ing ab­so­lutely ap­pro­pri­ate. The sec­ond com­ing of Ora started so well way back in 2014 with d-floor banger Never Let You Down storm­ing straight to No.1 in the UK, po­si­tion­ing her as a pop pow­er­house to be reck­oned with.

But then it all started to, well, burn down around her. First off a break-up from for­mer boyfriend Calvin Har­ris re­port­edly lost her a load of songs for the project, but shortly after came her de­par­ture from Roc Na­tion after she filed a law­suit to be freed from her con­tract.

She filled the in­terim pe­riod with a role in the Fifty Shades of Grey fran­chise, a stint as a judge on The X Fac­tor, and var­i­ous tele­vi­sion and fash­ion projects. But for more than two years her pop ca­reer was a pile of ashes on the floor. Then in 2017 – after sign­ing a new deal with At­lantic Records – came Your Song. The re­birth be­gan.

The track – which serves as the lead sin­gle for Phoenix – tapped into stream­ing’s in­sa­tiable ap­petite for a pop ear­worm em­bel­lished with glow­ing elec­tron­ics, wrap­ping up the sheer ela­tion of be­ing love into a chewy melody. It wasn’t long un­til sec­ond sin­gle Any­where took that tem­plate one step fur­ther, un­der­pin­ning a sprawl­ing ro­mance “over the hills and far away” with sharp fin­ger clicks, and a cho­rus more glitchy than The Ma­trix. It marked the mo­ment this Phoenix took flight.

Liam Payne team-up For You is a sky-soar­ing love song that thrives on its cin­e­matic pro­duc­tion, and while Girls has lyrics that needed a lit­tle more thought put into them, the em­pow­er­ing fe­male an­them at its heart is a cel­e­bra­tion of love in all its forms. Then we get to fifth sin­gle Let You Love Me, as Rita’s self-de­struc­tive ten­den­cies play out over a catchy con­coc­tion of airy synths and skit­ter­ing beats.

As for the tracks that haven’t re­ceived the sin­gle treat­ment (yet), New Look hears Rita sus­pi­cious that her other half is cheat­ing on her over a puls­ing dance-pop back­drop, while Only Want You starts with soft gui­tar plucks before build­ing into an epic midtempo. On the lat­ter, how­ever, it’s Rita who’s break­ing hearts: “I know I’m the one who ru­ined ev­ery­thing and made you think it was all your fault.” First Time High, mean­while, cap­tures young love as jumpy strings climb into a boom­ing cho­rus.

It may have taken six years to get to this point for Rita, but Phoenix is a pop al­bum worth wait­ing for. With tight pro­duc­tion, plenty of bops, and an over­all feel-good sen­ti­ment, it’s the sound of a star burn­ing brighter than ever.

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