A fun debut, but Ora struggles to impose her own appealing identity on proceedings.
Fraser McAlpine 2012
Pop stars are often quick to describe their album as being “like a collection of singles,” to avoid the suggestion that any of the songs are makeweights. Few have taken this approach quite as literally as Rita Ora, whose debut actually sounds more like Now That’s What I Call 2012 than the work of a single artist.
All the hit-makers are here, and not just on the hits: How We Do (Party), Hot Right Now and R.I.P. – number one smashes all. She’s worked with Drake, Kanye West and Jay-Z; there are appearances from will.i.am, DJ Fresh, Tinie Tempah; songs are written by Ester Dean, Stargate, Chase & Status... Justin Bieber is surely only a phone call away.
For her part, Rita is incredibly adept at channelling the essential spirits of other vocalists – Rihanna’s flattened moan one minute (Shine Ya Light), Katy B’s up-for-it holler the next (Love and War), a lurch towards the healing hoot of Katy Perry (Been Lying), and the occasional nod towards P!nk, Ke$ha and other popstrels who can’t spell their own names without the shift key. This, while fun, does occasionally mean it’s hard to appreciate Rita for herself, and that seems a shame, given her palpable charisma.
The most unsettling moment comes when she launches into a full-throated impression of The Ting Tings’ Katie White in the bolshy Uneasy, which was written for her by the actual Ting Tings. The inclusion of a Rihanna “yeah-ay-ay” section only adds to the sense of identity crisis. At the other extreme, there’s Fall in Love, a dirty bass swoosh in which will.i.am delivers the least momentous rap in musical history and Rita squeals “fa-la-la-laa!” like a Morris dancer. It’s not brilliant, but it does at least sound like no one else.
Thing is, it’s fine to take your place among the everything elseness of modern pop music – sparky popstrels have to eat, too – but when the next star comes along and claims Rita Ora as an influence, we’re all going to have a devil of job working out what that means.