The music video for Rita Ora’s controversial new music video is finally here. “Girls,” featuring Charli XCX, Bebe Rexha, and Cardi B, received some backlash when it was released as a single a few weeks ago. The song was criticized by members of queer communities, including pop artists Hayley Kiyoko and Kehlani, for contributing to a culture of “marginalizing women loving women” and “contributing to the male gaze.” especially since most of the artists featured on the song were straight women. (Ora has since apologized for the hurt the song may have caused, and said that in the past she has had “romantic relationships with men and women.”)
The video for “Girls” features Ora in a paradise of girls, a sapphic jungle of women with long hair, flowy pastel dresses, and lacy lingerie. In the video, Ora subverts the “male gaze” accusation that was thrown at the song by looking directly at the camera when she sings, performing knowingly for the camera rather than letting herself be subjected by it. The video is shot and edited dreamily, with frequent cuts between Ora in the garden, Charli XCX in a forest at night, and Bebe Rexha in a hall of mirrors.
Cardi B appears with the most dramatic entrance, materializing as a hologram when Ora puts some glasses on. Cardi’s image flickers on a screen while Ora stares up at her. Ora turns into a flickering hologram, too, as Cardi dances around her and touches her face. And then they kiss!
The video is dreamy and surreal, but it seems like a direct response to the criticism that the song has gotten. Rita, Charli, Bebe, and Cardi are performing the song in utopian scenes, free from the watchful eyes of gross dudes in the club. The lyrics say “red wine, I just wanna kiss girls,” but there isn’t any alcohol lowering her inhibitions. The video is just some leaves, some mirrors, and a lot of girls, girls, girls.
You can watch the music video for “Girls” above.