Early last year I wrote a post that featured this year’s Super Bowl halftime performer Bruno Mars. The story revolved around the multi-ethnic background of Mars, and how he might represent musicians of the future. The more I examine many of the new artists making their way to prominence, the more I hear genre lines blurring and individual songs incorporating a variety of musical styles and elements. I also observed that artists are coming from uncommon places around the globe, including this weeks’ featured artist Rita Ora.
Although she grew up in West London, Rita Sahatçiu was born in 1990 in Pristina SFR Yugoslavia (now Kosovo). I was born in Chicago, lived here in Miami for many years, and traveled around the country and even outside the US. I’ve met people from all around the world, but I don’t ever remember meeting anyone from Kosovo. My father was a lover of geography and instilled in me that same love, along with zeal to learn about all people and their backgrounds. On the surface Rita Ora seems to be a very interesting young person and performer. She has lived in England since her family moved when she was a one year old, but her parents have not held back from teaching her about her Kosovar-Albanian background. Asked about her religion, Ora stated: “I believe in God and I’m a Muslim culture, but my parents never forced me. Above all, they raised me with the idea that I could make my own choices and have my own beliefs”. She is indeed an intriguing young artist that I would love to meet one day. At this time like the rest of the music listening audience I will settle for listening to her music.
Rita Ora’s head must still be spinning from the sudden success she has enjoyed. From 2009 when she signed with Jay-Z and his Roc Nation label until now. Throughout 2011, Ora released videos of herself working on her debut album. In one of them, at the request of her fans, she sung an acoustic version of Outkast’s song “Hey Ya!”. The video caught the attention of DJ Fresh, who at that time was looking for a voice for his song, “Hot Right Now”. Ora auditioned for the part and was eventually kept on the track. The music video for “Hot Right Now” was uploaded on YouTube on December 14, 2011 and the single was released on February 12, 2012, reaching No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart. She took two years to completely finish her first studio album. will.i.am, Ester Dean, Drake, The-Dream and Stargate all worked with Ora on her debut album. When speaking about the sound of the album and its concept, Ora said it “definitely has pop in it, but you can hear influences of jazz in there, you can hear influences of Monica and Aaliyah, and then you can hear Gwen Stefani”. She has also stated the album was influenced by her father’s record collection which, in addition to reggae, also includes such artists as Eric Clapton and B.B. King.
I took notice of Rita Ora with the release of her monster hit party anthem “How We Do (Party)”. I heard the song so much on the radio that I had to find out about the artist. After that I finally saw the video I had a feeling there would be more music from Rita Ora to follow. Upon its release August 27, 2012, Ora the album received generally mixed reviews from music critics. The album debuted at number 1 on the UK Albums Chart. It gained moderate success overseas, entering the top 25 in Australia and New Zealand. Amazingly, the album was not released in the US. The album was set to be released in the United States in early 2013. Rita also stated in an interview that the US edition of the album would be like a second album. Ora later explained that she had decided not to release Ora in the US. She said that her second studio album will mark her US debut.
In addition to her music, Rita Ora received several minor roles in films, but now she will portray Christian Grey’s sister, Mia, in the film adaptation of the best-selling novel Fifty Shades of Grey. Filming started in December 2013, with a release set for February 2015. In addition to Gwen Stefani, Ora has drawn great inspiration stylistically from Marilyn Monroe through fashionable trends in both vintage clothing and retro wear. I’m sure that her second album is coming in the near future, but I wonder if Ora, like Monroe before her, will find larger than life success because of her movie role. The plan is for several films to follow Fifty Shades of Grey. Based upon the success of the novel, the film should receive huge attention. We’ll look out for Rita Ora’s second studio album, but she is also going to the movies!
photo by Derrick Santini