july 19, 2023 -NEW YORK (AP) — It’s hard to imagine a paparazzi-followed, international pop star losing confidence, but that was Rita Ora.
“I think, as humans, we always tend to doubt ourselves. And so, I think over the course of my last album… a lot happened,” said the 32-year-old singer, who recently married, changed record labels and became busier with more TV gigs. “I lost a bit of confidence.”
Now, the multi-hyphenated entertainer is betting on herself with her new album, “You & I,” out now, which she says is a “personal letter” to her fans. She partly credits her newlywed husband, filmmaker Taika Waititi, with regaining her musical mojo.
“The whole album is not just about him,” she said. “But it definitely has a lot to do with my connections with my family and my friends… and everything that inspires me.”
“You & I” marks Ora’s third studio release following 2018’s “Phoenix.” The 12-track project boasts credits from executive producer Oak Felder (Alicia Keys, Usher, Ariana Grande), along with Rollo (David Guetta, BTS) and Keith Sorrells (John Legend, Demi Lovato).
It also signifies a personal milestone for Ora; she owns this album’s master recordings — advice she says she received from icon Prince — and co-wrote every song, something she’d never done, by converting diary entries into songs.
“There are the artists who sort of take the reins of their creativity to kind of help tell their story a little bit better, and Rita definitely is one of those,” said Felder. “Rita’s life is a (expletive) movie… so emotionally dramatic and so emotionally entertaining and such a fulfilling thing that she has been able to live, and so I think that’s why it’s really easy for her to get to the studio to push the process and be like, ‘I’m going to write about this.’”
The deeply personal album has only one collaboration, Fatboy Slim, on “Praising You” which hit No. 1 on Billboard’s dance/mix show airplay chart — a rework of his 1998 hit, “Praise You.”
The “Anywhere” artist released two other singles: “You Only Love Me” and her current single, “Don’t Think Twice.” Her “Thor: Love and Thunder” husband deployed his directorial skills for the latter’s music video. Joining that trio of singles are the radio-friendly tune the infectious, four-on-the-floor “Unfeel It” as well as her ballad title track.
“’You & I’ is actually the song I wrote the day after I got married. And it was crazy because I was so hung over… my brain was like mush,” recalled Ora, who has appeared in nearly a dozen feature films. “I basically wanted to write the ultimate love song… there’s a lot of references of classic love songs.”
There are also introspective records layered beneath the drums and synths. She dedicates “Shape of Me” to her mother, a breast cancer survivor, and reveals pursing therapy in the bouncy, self-reflective “Girl in the Mirror.”
“Your voice — like your soul, like your spirit — experiences things and it changes it… When I hear Rita sing, I can hear those experiences,” said the Grammy-nominated producer Felder. “I think the pressure of having gone through everything that she’s gone through, the fact that this project was so important to her and so important to her career really, really, really informed how complex and how deep her vocals felt on the record. There is a rare sampling of artists that I have worked with where that is the case.”
Creating pop smashes like “Let You Love Me,” “Poison” and “Body on Me,” Ora was born in Kosovo (formerly Yugoslavia) before her family fled to London due to the persecution of Albanians as the war-torn region fell. Growing up in Notting Hill, she attended the Sylvia Young Theatre School and later signed with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation. Her 2012 “Ora” album launched a successful debut career with hits like “R.I.P.,” “How We Do (Party),” and “Hot Right Now.” She would later sue the company, believing she wasn’t a priority.
Currently, Ora is prepping a deluxe version of “You & I” loaded with star-studded features (which she’s keeping under wraps), and will continue judging duties on “The Voice: Australia.” She also appears in “Wonderwell,” the final film by Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher, released last month.
But at this moment, she’s focused on her first creative love, hoping it’s a reflection of her endurance, during what she defines as her latest “era,” a perspective weaved into her self-empowering, “Look at Me Now.”
“When you get home and it’s quiet and you’re lying down in bed like everyone else, you ask yourself all these questions and self-doubts,” reflected Ora. “I wanted people to listen to that and think there is a light on the other side, if you just really kind of keep at it and not give up.”