Rita Ora releases sophomore album six years after debut
Rita Ora’s road to her sophomore album was a long and windy one. The British pop star had her breakthrough back in 2012 when her singles ‘How We Do (Party)’ and ‘R.I.P.’ both went to number in the UK. A couple of months later she dropped her debut album. After another number 1 hit in 2014, ‘I Will Never Let You Down’, her singles started to underperform and we did not hear anything from her until 2017, when she came back swinging with the international hits ‘Your Song‘ and ‘Anywhere‘. Still, it took her over a year to finally get another record out. Her fans have been joking that the new album is almost like a greatest hits and they are not far off. Without further ado, this is Phoenix.
Rita Ora has mostly been the kind of pop star that brings us the bops and that is exactly what Phoenix is designed to do. There is not much of an overarching theme or specific sound that defines the record. She worked with a wide variety of hit producers and writers (from Chris Martin and Steve Mac to Stargate and Avicii) while Rita herself co-wrote less than half of the tunes. In that sense, Phoenix definitely feels more like a collection of pop singles she has been working on in the past few years, than a well thought out pop record with a purpose from start to finish. For an album to then feel like a greatest hits album, also means that the vast majority of the tunes need to sound like hits and Rita and her team sure managed to do that!
The album kicks off with hit singles ‘Anywhere’ and ‘Let Me Love You’, of which the first is a career highlight and the second a well-written bop with a killer chorus. ‘New Look’ is the first tune we haven’t heard before yet and it is easily one of the highlights. In the lyrics, Rita worries about her partner getting it on with another woman. She does so over an explosive chorus with an undeniable hook. Potential single material for sure, just like ‘Summer Love’, her collaboration with Rudimental. The november release is surprising to say the least, but the track is strong enough to rise to the top anytime of year. I guess we will just have to imagine the sunny beach while Rita whisper-sings in our ears about summer love in a sultry tone.
Rita and her team pushed ‘Only Want You’ forward to promote the album release on Spotify’s New Music playlists. It might not be the strongest tune on the album, but the midtempo love song shows off a different side to miss Ora’s art and showcases her powerful vocals in a radiofriendly chorus. ‘Keep Talking’, a duet with Julia Michaels, is another more laidback moment, but ultimately sounds more like a Michaels track than something Ora would be able to build her brand with on radio.
‘Hell of a Life’ is the bombastic album closer (if you don’t count the only proper ballad ‘Soul Survivor’ which closes the deluxe edition) every pop album deserves, with a powerful chorus and drop. Although it is a strong song, it does not come off as personal as it tries to be, which is an issue throughout the album. Phoenix is an excellent collection of pop songs with a lot of hit potential, but it is not yet the record that will define Rita Ora as an artist.