There’s no more room for the wildly experimental on commercial radio than there is for a Pierre Gagnaire dish on the menu at KFC. So if an artist has already smashed the iTunes charts twice this year, they’re unlikely to start messing with a successful playlist. After all, sales figures and what a label exec would term ‘cross-platform visibility’ attest to the invincibility of the Rihanna/Beyoncé pop model, which Rita Sahatçiu Ora follows on this debut.
The 21-year-old Londoner was first pitched into the spotlight as the vocalist on DJ Fresh’s smash single ‘Hot Right Now’ back in February (expect to hear the DJ himself spin in at Sandance on Friday October 12). And she was still hot three months later, when she scored a UK number one with her own ‘RIP’, featuring Tinie Tempah. Now, can she go the album distance?
Ora is signed to Jay-Z’s label and clearly has the chops to be in this thing for the long term. She’s a powerhouse vocalist in a team that features production heavyweights such as Stargate and Will.i.am, delivering over-familiar but highly effective potential chart gold. The problem is that there’s so little of Ora here. The sleek R&B-pop hybrid that dominates mainstream music seems to have eliminated her personality. ‘How We Do (Party)’ is as much attitudinal fun as you’d expect from the title, and ‘Uneasy’ pushes all the right buttons. It’s just that all Ora really gets to do is channel a sound now so ubiquitous it has carpet-bombed our consciousness. Sharon O’Connell