Rita Ora has been teasing a big new pop track called “Girls” that features quite a crew of collaborators — Cardi B, for one, along with Charli XCX and Bebe Rexha — and it finally arrived last night.
But, the song was met with disappointment from some (me, for one) and outright criticism from others. Queer pop star Hayley Kiyoko, who is open about her sexuality and incorporates it into her self-directed music videos (which incorporate the queer female gaze in unprecedented ways) has called out the song for being tone deaf — and she definitely has a point.
“It’s important for us artists to use our platforms to move the cultural needle forward, not backwards,” Kiyoko wrote in an Instagram post. “There is a new song that came out today featuring a handful of well-known pop artists that has me overwhelmed with my thoughts. I literally have a knot in my stomach right now. To be clear, I fully support other artists who freely express themselves and applaud male and female artists who are opening up more and more about their sexual identities.”
“But every so often,” she continued, “There come certain songs with messaging that is just downright tone-deaf, which does more harm than good for the LGBTQ+ community. A song like this just fuels the male gaze while marginalizing the idea of women loving women. I know this wasn’t the intention of the artists on the song, but it’s the lack of consideration behind these lyrics that really get me. I don’t need to drink wine to kiss girls; I’ve loved women my entire life. This type of message is dangerous because it completely belittles and invalidates the very pure feelings of an entire community. I feel I have a responsibility to protect that whenever possible. We can and should do better.”
That about sums it up. Check out Hayley’s original post above, and kudos to her for speaking up when she feels her community is being unfairly portrayed and even potentially exploited. For her part, Ora has spoken to People about the song’s origins, and how she was inspired by Katy Perry’s early (also tone deaf) hit “I Kissed A Girl.”
“It was really inspired by one of my favorite songs: “I Kissed a Girl” by Katy Perry. That was the first song anyone heard of Katy Perry’s, and it was just such a statement; it was so fun. I wanted to do something that was in that lane.”
When People asked Ora outright identified as bisexual or fluid, this was her response:
“I think the way…If people look at it like that, it’s very narrow-minded, and I don’t think that’s what this record is. I don’t think that that even matters. Yeah.”