Rita Ora on shooting her music video in Dubai and taking back control of her career
The UK singer performs at new Dubai festival Wake Up Call this weekend
Rita Ora is free at last. The British singer managed to extricate herself out of her contentious album contract, which saw her struggle to release a solid body of work for six years.
The time between has been creatively frustrating for the 28-year-old, having to drop sporadic one off singles – including For You with Liam Payne for the Fifty Shades Freed movie soundtrack– while managing to maintain her visibility as a mentor on the UK version of The Voice.
Speaking to The National before headlining the inaugural Wake Up Call festival at W Dubai – The Palm on Friday, October 11, she admits to keeping herself busy as a coping mechanism. “I needed to create and focus on myself and I am the best when I am doing things I enjoy,” she says.
Contractually able to record an album again, a feeling of release permeates all over Phoenix. Backed by a new record label, Atlantic, the album is the sound of a hungry artist making up for lost time.
Ora traverses different popular genres as she re-establishes her standing as vocal power house: there is a drum and bass collaboration with UK group Rudimental (Summer Love), an electro ballad (Only Want You) and fine piece of Neo Soul in Velvet Rope.
The eclectic nature of the album, Ora says, is simply down to the joy creating music in the studio unhindered.
“I am a singer in my core and people want to see me on TV and in films and are interested to see what I wear,” she says. "But I get so much joy from music honestly. It’s so therapeutic and helps me stay positive, grounded and happy.”
The UAE ended up becoming part of the creative process. Ora flew to Dubai earlier this year to record the music video for the track New Look.
The two-minute-and-43-second clip took in a lot of the emirate: she hangs out with her dancer posse at the wavy Meydan Bridge. For a bit of Emirati culture, she records a spot at the Al Fahidi Historical District and of course, there is the classic shot of nighttime traffic on Sheikh Zayed Road.
Ora doesn’t offer too much about her UAE experience. Her stand out memory from the shoot was the fashion style of UAE residents.
“I love the people, the scene and the location was perfect for the video,” she says. “I just loved the girls in the jumpsuits with the head-scarfs. I thought that was really cool and I’ve never seen that before, so that was really special.”
Another highlight of the album is the stirring dance pop of Lonely Together, with EDM producer Avicii. It was one of the Swede’s last official recordings before he died last year in Muscat, Oman, at the age of 28.
Ora delivered a touching performance of the song a week after his passing at a concert in Holland, after which she requested a minute's silence from the crowd as a mark of respect. Ora says she welcomes the present discussion of mental health within the music industry.
“My mother is a psychiatrist and she works for the NHS (the UK's public funded National Health Service). I am so aware of mental health and what it means, and I can see that in the music industry, if you are successful, people may not realise there are mental health issues, which is quite confusing for a lot of artists,” she says.“It’s important for people to be in tune with their health and find out how you can be and stay as mentally healthy, as that works differently for each individual.”
Considering the industry struggles she overcame, Ora says her definition of success is now clearly defined: “It is about being able to make choices for myself and that are based on what is best for Rita Ora to be happy.”
Rita Ora performs at Wake Up Call festival on Friday October 11 at 9.30pm. The festival runs from Thursday, October 10 to Saturday, October 12; weekend festival pass starts at Dh345; W Dubai – The Palm, Palm Jumeirah; www.wakeupcallfest.com
Updated: October 10, 2019 02:45 PM