Rita Ora is resilient. The seven years between her debut album and this powerful follow-up were, by all accounts, tough, with record label legal entanglements, high-profile relationship drama, and unseemly rumors. “I was like, ‘I’m angry, I’m sad, I’m frustrated, I’m alone, I’m single, I’m sexless,’” the British singer told Apple Music. “Not anymore.” Armed with renewed self-confidence and a good-vibes-only outlook, she started fresh. Phoenix, of course, is a nod to rebirth. The album is adventurous, triumphant and unflinchingly honest. “My fans deserve to know exactly how I feel, exactly what I went through and exactly why they had to wait so bloody long for a Rita Ora album,” she said. Here are the stories behind a few of the album’s standout songs.
Falling to Pieces
“‘Falling to Pieces’ was the first time [many of the album’s writers] had come to London. They asked me, ‘What is this city about?’ And I said, ‘Let’s start off with that, because this is where I’m from.’ It became incredibly emotional. London was rainy and dark that day, which is what we had mood-wise, but the song has this sense of empowerment to it. It feels like London—incredible people of all different personalities, cultures, races. It’s one of my favourites on the album.”
“Julia Michaels and I were in the studio, both pissed off about something, and I was like, ‘Don’t you just hate it when people just keep talking about you, and they don’t know you, and you just want to scream from the rooftops and be like, ‘You’re all wrong!’ And she said, ‘They can just keep talking.’ And the song started. I wanted it to feel like two girls talking about something they had in common. Chris Martin, who is an absolute legend, helped take this song to another level. He put that Chris Martin dust on it.”
“‘Soul Survivor’ is, for me, the most honest I’ve ever been with myself, let alone my fans. I’m good at pretending things haven’t happened, at compartmentalising things. This was the moment I said, ‘I want to talk about being a survivor.’ Because I don’t think anybody went through what I went through, with such powerful individuals in the industry, sacrificing maybe being blacklisted forever because of the moves I had to make to survive. I felt like that was an inspiring story. ‘It’s been seven long years/Fighting for your attention/Manipulated by fear and misdirection.’ That’s just the opening line. It isn’t about anyone in specific, but the demons I had to face to get here. Without this song, I probably would never have believed in myself.”