Rita Ora Explains How She Felt After The "Girls" Backlash

Photo Courtesy of Permanent Press Media

The singer talks 'Phoenix,' controversy, and how she's risen from the ashes.

Rita Ora is ready for her re-introduction. Friday marks the arrival of her sophomore album Phoenix, her first-ever global release and proper U.S. album rollout. As far as re-introductions go, Ora has eased us into her new era as publicly as she possibly could. "As soon as I got the taste of the interaction from the public with interest," she tells me, "I definitely didn't want it to end… I wanted to work, I wanted to be present, I wanted to hold my own."

And she definitely did. Ora is a self-described "workaholic," capable of maintaining her status as a pop music fixture with a slew of high-profile gigs in fashion and television, even as the drama with Roc Nation played out behind-the-scenes. This drama meant that Ora has had to deal with a less than perfect release schedule for this album; its cycle essentially started back in 2017 with the release of her single "Your Song," which peaked at No. 7 in the U.K., but simmered just below the Hot 100 in the U.S.

"Obviously, my story wasn't ideal," Ora admits. "I had a few back-steps, but you know what? It made this album 10 times more special, and it makes me feel like this record is worth it, because of all the fighting I had to do to be heard."

"I technically feel like I'm starting from the beginning," Ora tells me, adding, "I wanted this album to really represent the great rebirth of me coming into my own as a 27-year-old woman." She's been working on Phoenix for four years now, but only material from the past two years made it onto the album.

Of the album's already-released singles, "Girls" felt like it had a chance to dominate the summer airwaves, and build momentum to Phoenix. But, instead, the song got a negative response from many queer pop artists who felt it recalled the intrinsic homophobia of Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl," with NYLON's editor-in-chief Gabrielle Korn also pointing out that there was a lot of encoded misogyny in the lyrics. (It shouldn't come as a surprise that "Girls" was written by men.)

Ahead, we chat with Ora about re-introducing herself to the world with Phoenix, what keeps her motivated, and about learning how to speak her truth—and how the world might not receive it with open arms. Phoenix comes out this Friday, November 23.

Earlier this fall you were saying that you weren't at all nervous to put Phoenix out in the world. As the release is rapidly approaching, has this changed at all?
I'm excited. I mean, I'm obviously nervous, but I'm nervous with everything because it's my baby. I'm so proud of this record, and I'm happy to just let it do its thing.

You've been working on Phoenix for years now. Does it feel strange to link all of these songs together, kind of become a time capsule in that way, or does it all still feel emotionally relevant to you?
The reason why I called it Phoenix is because it was a fresh start and a brand-new beginning. Like a phoenix, it's reoccurring, and it has lots of lives, et cetera. It's my first global release, so I technically feel like I'm starting from the beginning, and I wanted this album to really represent the great rebirth of me coming into my own as a 27-year-old woman.

"Soul Survivor" feels like an apt conclusion to the album—can you talk a little bit about the inspiration behind it?
It is really about feeling like it's all over, and like you have no hope left and, god knows how, feeling like, You know what, I can do this. It was actually written as s-o-l-e, like one individual person, but I thought it easier to relate to if it was s-o-u-l, but the meanings are really the same. I did it all in one take, it's one of my most wonderful moments.

Plenty of people have tried to restrain you from having your voice heard in one way or another. Did that have any effect on the way you approached this album once you finally could?
Obviously, my story wasn't ideal, and I had a few back-steps, but you know what? It made this album 10 times more special, and it makes me feel like this record is worth it, because of all the fighting I had to do to be heard. I'm happy that I'm in a place now in my career where I can find the balls to do that, and really take charge of my own destiny.

What do you kind of hope fans will take away from this album?
I think, the patience that I had—I can only imagine that they had, too—to have waited for this album. It's a long time coming. [Phoenix is] for them, my gratitude for their patience and their support over the years. I really want them to listen to it with open ears and just let go.

Speaking of patience, what kept you focused and level-headed through all of this?
My addiction to work. I really am a workaholic. I'm so determined to kind of be that boss woman that my mother is, and that my grandmother is. I just don't want it to end or stop right now.

What happened to the rumored rap collaboration for Phoenix?
It's being saved for something.

How long until it's released?
Soon. Not too long.

What's up next for you?
As soon as this album comes out, I will probably jump back in in the new year and start working on my next [album]. I feel like now the groove is in. I'm not gonna stop, and I'm just gonna keep making loads of music.

What have you been finding inspiration in lately?
I think it's just all the newcomers, you know? All the new artists that are coming through and the support they're getting online. The whole craze of independent artists just taking over. I love Billie Eilish and Rosalía.

In all the talk of the new album, what do you think people are still missing?
I believe it's all gonna explain itself when the album comes out. I think that's what I've missed these past few years, is just having that body of work that really represents me.

What is your favorite song right now on the album that you are excited for people to finally hear?
"Soul Survivor" is really important for me. It's one of my most I guess close-to-home songs I've ever been a part of. "Falling to Pieces" is my reflection of the world that I live in at the moment, so it's a very jolly song, but the lyrics aren't as jolly as you think they are.

"Girls" received plenty of pushback from fans and queer pop artists. How does it feel, looking back, as you prepare to release it as a part of Phoenix?
I'm not gonna say it didn't upset me. Of course, it did, because my intentions were always so pure with that record. I knew it was gonna be a shocker because I don't think people knew my truth, because I never spoke about [it], and I didn't speak about it because I come from a country where that's not really that open yet, you know?

I'm one of those people that, unfortunately, can't just openly speak about that. Being from Kosovo—we're definitely evolving, but I thought that was a great representation of somebody that, unfortunately, hasn't got the freedom that other people do have.

I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the LGBT community… I was always with them. Some people had points that they were confused about, but I saw by putting out that song that the world is so sensitive, and I guess it was still a very sensitive situation to talk about that.

Photo by Imani Givertz

Premiering today via NYLON

Small Talks, aka Cayley Spivey, has come a long way since starting a band, then becoming the entire band herself and forging her own fan base from the ground up. On her recent album A Conversation Between Us, she began to unpack any lingering baggage with one particular song: "Teeth." Today, she premieres the accompanying music video exclusively via NYLON.

"'Teeth' is about my personal battle with letting go of the past," Spivey tells NYLON, admitting that it's easily her favorite song off of A Conversation Between Us.

Watch the video for "Teeth" below.

Small Talks - Teeth (Official Music Video) - YouTube

Photos by Joe Maher/Getty Images, Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for TIME

Must have been pretty awkward

Taylor Swift and Sophie Turner were guests on the U.K.'s The Graham Norton Show together, which must have been awkward for Turner's husband, Joe Jonas, seeing as he also happens to be Swift's ex. I wonder if his name came up?

The interview doesn't come out until Friday night, but promotional photos show the two sharing a couch. Swift is making an appearance to perform her new single, "ME!" while Turner is promoting her new film, X- Men: Dark Phoenix. But it seems necessary for the two to be asked about Jonas.

Swift was just on the Ellen DeGeneres Show earlier this month, where she brought up the fact that she felt bad for putting Jonas "on blast" on DeGeneres' show back in 2008 by telling the audience that he broke up with her in a record-setting short phone call. But, according to Swift, she and Jonas are chill now, since it happened pretty long ago, which means she's probably already hung out with Turner and maybe even gossiped about him with her.

We can only hope that they get the chance to spill some tea on television.

Screenshot via YouTube, Photo Courtesy of HBO

"That's! His! Auntie!"

Leslie Jones has rewatched the Game of Thrones finale with a beer in hand, Seth Meyers at her side, and a full camera crew ready to take in all her glorious reactions. Spoilers ahead, but, if you haven't watched last week's episode already, that's kind of on you at this point.

When Jon Snow started to make out with Daenerys, also known as his aunt, only to stab her through the chest moments later, it was emotional whiplash for everyone watching. And, Jones' reactions—both from her first and second viewing—sum it all perfectly.

"That's! His! Auntie! [gagging noises]," Jones says before making an aside about calling the police if her uncle ever tried to do the same. But then the knife goes in, and Jones screams. "Did you see that?!" Jones asks, "Yeah bitch, that's a knife in you." Meyers points out the funniest part of all: "Why are you so upset about someone kissing their aunt but totally fine with someone killing their aunt?" Jones replies, "Because that bitch needed to go," and, well, same.

Other highlights from the comedians' rewatch include comparing Dany's victory speech to a bad improv gig, predicting that their dogs would have less of a reaction to their deaths than Drogon did to his mother's, and more.

Watch all of Jones' reactions from this Late Night clip below.

Game of Jones: Leslie Jones and Seth Watch Game of Thrones' Series Finale

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These lyrics are a lot

Robbie Tripp, aka Curvy Wife Guy, is back with a music video, titled "Chubby Sexy," starring his wife and a trio of models. In it, Tripp raps about his bold choice to find women with an average body size attractive.

The video begins with a series of statements laid over some pool water: "Curves are the new high fashion," "Chubby is the new sexy," "We Out Here." Tripp posits that these queens deserve an anthem, which they do. What they do not deserve is this Cursed Song. As he lists all the names he knows to call them by (thick, thicc, and BBW), one model (who I really, really hope was paid well) squirts some lotion down her cleavage, and Tripp begins dancing.

"My girl chubby sexy/ Call her bonita gordita," Tripp states in his chorus, before going on to compare "big booty meat" to the peach emoji. Another thing he mentions is that his wife can't find a belt that fits her waist, and that's why he calls her James and the Giant Peach. He then tries to dab. Here are some of the other Cursed highlights from his, uh, verses:

Got those Khaleesi curves/ Knows how to dragon slay
She like a dude that's woke/ We like a girl that's weighty
Some say a chubby girl that's risky/ But they ain't met a curvy girl that's frisky
Imma dunk that donk like I'm Andrew Wiggins.
Thick like an Amazon/ Built like Big Ben.

Tripp says one thing in the video that I couldn't agree more with: "She don't need a man." No, she does not. Please run. If you must, watch the entire video, below. Or send it to your nemesis!

Robbie Tripp - Chubby Sexy (Official Music Video)

Photo by Emma McIntyre / Getty Images.

See the promo here

It was bound to happen. The Kadashians and Jenners have committed themselves to letting the cameras roll on their lives, for better or for worse. So if you thought that the Jordyn Woods and Tristan Thompson cheating scandal was off limits, you thought wrong. The trailer for Sunday's episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians was just released, and it involves the famous family working through the fallout of what happened when Woods went to a party at Thompson's house.

The teaser includes the infamous clip of Khloé Kardashian screaming "LIAAAARRRRRR." It's still not explicitly clear who prompted that strong response. She could be responding to Thompson, who clearly isn't always honest. Or she could be reacting to Woods account of the events on Red Table Talk. But the most revealing moment comes when we see Kylie Jenner—who was Woods' best friend before all of this happened—react for the first time.

In a heart-to-heart conversation, momager Kris Jenner says, "For you and Jordyn, it's like a divorce." Kylie only offers this in response: "She fucked up." Based on Woods' version of events—which I'm inclined to believeThompson is the one who fucked up. Still, I'm hoping for some kind of reconciliation between the two longtime friends. Perhaps we'll have to wait until next season for that.

Check out the promo video below.