By the time of her proper debut full-length, 2012's Ora, Kosovan-born, London-bred popstar Rita Ora was already primed to take over the pop culture throne. Enormously huge in Europe although lesser-known in the States, Ora began collaborating with label head Jay-Z, as well as R&B phenom Drake in 2009, and the host of big-name guests and producers who helped build Ora is as impressive as any roster of mainstream Top 40 artists circa 2009-2012. The album boasts production from Stargate and the-Dream, cameo appearances by will.i.am, Tinie Tempah, and J. Cole, as well as songwriting help from Ester Dean who's penned hits for Li'l Wayne, Katy Perry, Niki Minaj, and countless other superstars. Every element is in place for Ora to be a dazzling piece of disposable radio pop, and no part of the album's 12 tracks disappoints. Ora's pristine R&B vocals walk some of the same mega-diva territory as Beyoncé or Rihanna, but with defiantly thuggish undertones in the form of a casually profane demeanor and a certain kind of tough venerability in both lyrical and vocal delivery. The production is the sonic equivalent of any Hollywood blockbuster movie, with huge beats, precision songwriting, and performances so perfect they'd be sterile if Ora's larger-than-life personality wasn't the biggest part of the equation. Singles like "R.I.P.," "How We Do (Party)," and "Shine Ya Light" are all meticulously constructed anthems of partying, empowerment, and romance, crafted by the same minds responsible for dozens of other radio hits. Ora manages to be more captivating than her peers by merit of her real approach to her songs, but sonically the album is somewhat interchangeable with any number of Top 40 artist making their name in R&B-tinged-pop. Ora will either be taken as a delightful example of perfect ear candy or a Beyoncé knock-off, depending on how closely it's investigated. Repeat listens will expose a masterpiece of unrepentantly commercial pop on the same level as anything by better-known names, and with more interesting stories to tell than most of them.
AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas
feat: DJ Fresh