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Ora is reborn on ‘Phoenix’, but she does not quite soar

Rita+released+her+sophomore+album%2C+Phoenix%2C+on+Friday.+Entertainment+editor+Anthony+Cesario+enjoyed+the+songs+released+prior+to+the+album%2C+but+felt+disappointed+in+the+album+as+a+whole.
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Ora is reborn on ‘Phoenix’, but she does not quite soar

Rita released her sophomore album, Phoenix, on Friday. Entertainment editor Anthony Cesario enjoyed the songs released prior to the album, but felt disappointed in the album as a whole.

Rita released her sophomore album, Phoenix, on Friday. Entertainment editor Anthony Cesario enjoyed the songs released prior to the album, but felt disappointed in the album as a whole.

Shriya Vanparia

Rita released her sophomore album, Phoenix, on Friday. Entertainment editor Anthony Cesario enjoyed the songs released prior to the album, but felt disappointed in the album as a whole.

Shriya Vanparia

Shriya Vanparia

Rita released her sophomore album, Phoenix, on Friday. Entertainment editor Anthony Cesario enjoyed the songs released prior to the album, but felt disappointed in the album as a whole.

By Anthony Cesario, Coppell High School

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It has been six long years since Rita Ora released her debut album Ora. In that time, a contract dispute/legal battle and breakup with producer Calvin Harris left her unable to release hardly any music.

In May 2017, she officially returned with “Your Song”, a breezy track over a finger-snapped beat. It serves as the lead single from her sophomore album Phoenix and stands out as a simple, bright pop song in a year dominated by moody and minimalistic music.

What followed is “Anywhere”, a bubbly dance song with a euphoric double chorus. It remains one of the most underrated pop songs of last year.

Soon came “Girls”, which, controversy aside, is a fun and anthemic collaboration with Cardi B, Bebe Rexha and Charli XCX; “Let You Love Me”, which masks mournful lyrics with saccharine melodies and crisp electronic production, making it an album highlight; “Velvet Rope”, a piano driven post-breakup song with a gospel tinged refrain and “Falling to Pieces”, the sonical successor to “Anywhere”, complete with trumpets and a saxophone solo.

By the time Phoenix arrived on Friday, nine of the 16 songs had already been released, all ranging from good to pop perfection. Along the way, she broke the record for most top 10 songs by a British female solo artist on the UK charts.

Phoenix had quickly become one of the most unexpectedly anticipated pop albums of 2018. My expectations were high but, I felt, reasonably so.

Unfortunately, upon listening to the album, I was disappointed. The joyful, orchestral “First Time High” is the only new song I fell in love with.

Otherwise, Phoenix falls flat. “Only Want You” and “New Look” are cute but forgettable. The monotonous Julia Michaels collaboration “Keep Talking” is the musical equivalent of sluggish WiFi, containing a decently catchy hook that is not quite worth the time it takes to get there. “Summer Love” definitely does not sound summery, with an oddly ominous chorus that foreshadows a messy beat drop.

The best part of “Soul Survivor”, the song I was most excited to hear, is its opening lyric: “It’s been seven long years fighting for your attention / Manipulated by fear and misdirection”. However, it’s all downhill from there, and the song that is supposed to make me feel empowered ends up making me bored.

Phoenix is not a bad album by any account. In fact, it is a quite good collection of pop songs. But that’s all it is: a collection of songs sounding like they could have been recorded by any artist. There’s few creative risks taken, few unique lyrics, no identifiable sound.

And no amount of sweet melodies or danceable beats – especially when I had already heard most of them previously – can truly maintain my interest in an artist who, after 55 minutes and 34 seconds, I still know next to nothing about.

This story was originally published on Coppell Student Media on November 27, 2018.

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