View From The Side: Why Is Rita Ora So Big?
Hello everyone. It’s me, writer of words you are now speaking aloud inside your head with your internal reading voice. What does yours internal reading voice sound like? Mine sounds like my normal voice but camp and exaggerated like I’m in a Carry On film. I don’t know why. It’s just how it is. I’m not going to apologise. But anyway, person whose internal reading voice is now speaking these words aloud inside their head, have you thought about Rita Ora recently? I have. I actually recently spent one night awake till about 2.30am lying in bed thinking about her -"but why did you do that, you weird fuck?"- you ask, probably in a voice quite similar to your usual one, but maybe more like how you speak to your mum or dad. Well I’m going to tell you why, voice. I’ve been thinking about her recently because she is bad.
Now listen (to yourself), I’m not going to bludgeon your internal ears into submission with the sounds of your reading voice uncontrollably spewing lazy, ad-hominem invective, like that bully in school who used to grab your own hand to batter you in the face with. I’m not going to use your own left frontal lobe against you whilst inside of the lobe another voice says: ‘Please, this is the worst kind of tired, trendy pop culture diatribe there is, please stop’, as you clutch your physical ears and whelp, now in a third, separate voice: ‘Ahh, my internal ears! So loud in them! Ouch!’. Because yes, maybe your ears. Maybe. But maybe also Rita Ora is bad, did you ever think about that, you ear clutching cry baby? Maybe you should stop listening to yourself three times over whilst groping the acoustic skin flaps throbbing on the side of your head and come join me in nibbling on the delicious, sweet fruit that is now colloquially known as ‘Beef’.
Now, there will be an overarching reason why Rita Ora is bad here. Think of it as like when you crash land on an alien planet. You find yourself on a slimy surface, breathlessly dodging unimaginable creatures and fauna as they drool and blossom fatal things at you, which you zap with your ray gun. But then your legs start to wobble and you gasp and realise “Gadzooks! This isn’t a planet, this is a MONSTERRRR” and do a wicked slow motion jump as the mega monster roars and blinks or whatever.
See, because there are loads of little reasons why she is bad, but those reasons are just drooling and blossoming on a much larger problem that you are about to do a wicked slow motion jump off of.
In some ways, Rita Ora is actually good. Yes, I said it. Look, she has 5.22M followers on Twitter dot com. She has legions of fans. She has more endorsements than you could shake a stick at. Seriously, try and shake a stick at her face as you walk along Oxford Street. I’ve tried, and all I got out of it was a tired shoulder and a bunch of tourists that were super impressed with my stick shaking prowess.
“Hey mister, you sure are amazing at shaking that stick!” they say, armed to the teeth with shiny puffer-jackets.
“THANKS, I’M ACTUALLY DOING SOME RESEARCH FOR A LONG WINDED THINKPIECE ABOUT RITA ORA!” I shout.
“Oh, I see. Well good luck mister.”
Technically, she is beautiful. She wouldn’t be out of place as a misogynistic monochrome outline in one of Frank Miller’s graphic novels, with her voluptuous lips highlighted blood red or summat. Technically, if I were a sailor in Homer’s Odyssey, my palms would have splinters in them from how hard I would row toward her Siren’s call, even though I knew it would send me to a watery death. But then technically, her Siren’s call would probably be that terrible song she did with Snoop Dogg back when he was calling himself Snoop Lion, or any one of her annoying yet instantly forgettable tunes, so technically I’d row past her and just kind of look and think: “How the fuck are you managing to make a living out of killing sailors with those Siren calls because they are all shit”.
Have a think quickly. How many of her songs can you recall? Apart from 'Hot Right Now' (which is DJ Fresh’s tune anyway) how many can you think of? I can’t think of any, and I’m a person who can subconsciously recite the lyrics to Beyoncé’s 'Crazy In Love' and Taylor Swift’s 'Shake It Off' at the drop of a hat. Say what you like about ‘The Closest Thing Pop Music Has To A Bastard Offspring Of Ayn Rand And Steve Jobs’; but Taylor Swift writes albums worth of bangers. I know it’s a harsh comparison to make, but Beyoncé has been so successful musically that every time I spell Beyoncé on my phone it autocorrects it to have the accent over the E at the end of her name. Try it. That’s the power of successful music.
So, to clarify, Rita Ora’s music seems to be bad, and yet her face is everywhere. Her last number one was in 2014, which in pop's attention span may as well be last century. Her last run of back to back number ones was in 2012, and they only usually spent a week on top. Granted, she had a number one album off the back of those but again that was in 2012, AKA when people were still using iPhone 4's. When she told her 3.9m (at the time) Twitter dot com followers that if they retweeted her 100k times she would release a new track, they responded with a measly 900+ retweets. Not even one tenth of that deranged 100k target.
But, music can sometimes be only a segment in a wider celebrity persona these days. Yes, her musical ideas have been embarrassingly shut down by artists as terrible as Iggy Azalea, but maybe there are other elements of her that appeal.
She is, after all, a great role model. She is a tireless worker, that can’t be denied. Take, for example, the recent push for her autobiography: ‘Hot Right Now’ (lol ffs). She’s out there, giving back to back publicity interviews, which can’t be easy. But she does it for the sake of her career, and who cares if she essentially glorifies underage sexual abuse to her mostly teenage fans in the process, or justifies working with known woman beater Chris Brown? Not her label, they are making a killing.
And look too, how much of a style icon she is! Who cares if her whole look seems to be based on more cultural appropriation than your little sister and her mates at Secret Garden Party? To be fair to her, she’ been nothing but proudly Kosovan (i.e white) in any publicity you care to mention. But that hasn’t stopped her being pushed as the British answer to Rihanna, hoovering up any cultural tropes she can to use in her arsenal. The photoshop guy who insidiously whitened the skin of Beyonce in this L’oreal ad must’ve wet his pants when he saw Rita Ora. “Yes! I’ll let the interns handle the rest of this bollocks. I’m off to All Bar One for two for one cocktails.” But who cares? Not her record label, they’re making shitloads of money off of it.
I often wonder what Rita Ora’s internal reading voice sounds like. It can’t sound like that horrible faux-urban sass thing she does on the telly, because that would make you go insane faster than listening to Myleene Klasse's attempt at a grime show for Captial Xtra. I get the need to have a persona and presence, but hers seems to be completely based on offensively basic urban clichés. But, I guess, that sells.
So strange then, that she was chosen to be a judge for the X-Factor recently. I say strange, in reality it’s probably the most sense her career has ever made, hosting the Faustian theatre in which people dance for the devil, selling their souls for an ethereal moment of fame. Who better to guide these wraiths through the hellish, crimson lights of ITV prime time television than one who has already done her deal and still living to tell the tale?
Because yes, here is the bit when the grounds starts wobbling and you realise you’ve crash landed on a giant monster. We’ve zapped all of the luminous blue and purple things we could and it’s time for us to do a wicked slow motion jump.
There is a good reason why Rita Ora has more endorsements than number one singles. There is a good reason that despite huge evidence pointing toward her being bad, she seems to be the face of everything and in the papers twice daily.
Firstly, music PR has now become omni-powerful. Secondly, because the internet, album and single sales have fallen through the floor, creating a mad dash for records labels to keep their revenue streams high from other means. These two factors have created the perfect maelstrom in which a 360 deal would become the norm.
Essentially it’s the record labels realising that no one buys music anymore, and so they put their fingers into every fucking pie they can. Tours, merchandise, endorsements.
Streaming services and illegal downloading have replaced album and singles CD’s. In the 90’s, I’d pop down to my local Tower Records, gaily chomping on a bag of Astro Belts as I went, pay some Linford 18 quid and get an obscure Green Day album as my reward. Or perhaps I’d skip merrily over to Woolworths to splash out £2.99 on the Run DMC versus Jason Nevins ‘It’s Like That’ single. It was a physical process, one that required a show of commitment however small to the artist. Green Day and Jason Nevins got a cut and everyone was happy. Now all of that is undermined by streaming services paying artists 0.0001p a play and downloads completely cutting out the industry in its entirety.
With album and single sales in physical form, you knew who the most popular artist was at the time from a lazy glance at the charts. It was quantifiable in the purest sense, even if you sometimes got anomalies like ‘Cotton Eye Joe’ and ‘Cliff Richard – We’re All Going On A Summer Holiday (DJ Clipz remix)’.
So now, how do you know? Something as throwaway as download or most streamed charts give some indication, but are mostly whimsical, and probably have algorithms influenced by the status quo. Really, the only way I know someone is successful musically is if a PR company is doing their job and Rita Ora is the perfect example of that.
In terms of a 360 deal, she is the most bankable artist in the world right now. She provides a safer version of Rihanna, a dumbed down, racially ambiguous form easily marketable to those teenagers who have decided that edgy pop is their thing, which is all of them. Her music PR is working overtime and has made her at least in the UK, the most overtly successful artist I can think of right now. It’s got nothing to do with her music. She’s making the label money through merchandise and endorsements, of which there is a plethora.
I suppose it raises the more insidious question of what the end goal is these days. Is the music now a means to an end? Does it really stand for anything at all anymore? Producers have pretty much got catchy song writing down to a pin point science.
"Hey Todd, this melody has been stuck in my head for 3 days straight but I feel like it needs something else to give it that mind control vibe the last single had."
"Why don't you just put a weird noise here, here and here, then get the singer to do some variation of 'wooaahh' in the chorus?"
"Of course, the usual! Thanks Todd."
I guess it's the price you pay for not just years but decades of factory pop. We don't even care about the music anymore as long as it's catchy enough; we just want that sweet, sweet celebrity gold in our veins.
That is why I guess it seems weird to me, a balding luddite who grew up chomping Astro Belts. Like, I dunno dude, music used to be about the songs, man. Now it’s about image rights and merchandise. Like bro, what happened to the music, y’know? The record labels have bastardised pop even further than you possibly thought to a point where the most successful artist in the UK has essentially used her music in the same way Kim Kardashian used her sex tape, as a way to climb the pagoda of celebrity, so that ultimately they can be used to sell cheap tat. I guess that is what I find so annoying about Rita Ora, she is generally not that great musically, drops loads of clangers and yet is still at the top of the game because her PR is off the hinges.
So really, now we’re doing this wicked jump in slow motion whilst listening to our own internal reading voices speaking these words that sound a bit like us normally but more like how we talk to our mum and dad, we can see that although Rita Ora is a deadly fauna ready to be zapped with a ray gun, the real giant monster is still the record labels. The record labels, which have let music take a breather and connived to pummel you with endorsements and merchandise because that’s what sells in 2015. Record label executives looked at the threat of the internet and instead of figuring out a way of making the music industry better they just went “Fuck it lads, can’t we just get PR to deal with this? It’s getting close to 5 o’ clock and I’m clucking to get down to All Bar One.” Which is sad. But really it’s not Rita Ora’s fault at all. She’s just a bit annoying. Sorry Rita.