When Rita Ora’s new song “Girls” dropped last week, the singer called it a "bisexual anthem" and marketed it as her personal lyrical coming–out celebration. Now, only days later, the British songstress has issued an apology over critiques of being “tone–deaf.”
The song, which features fellow singers Charli XCX, Cardi B, and Bebe Rexha, explores, well, exploring your sexuality. In the song, Ora croons, “I ain't one–sided, I'm open–minded / I'm fifty-fifty and I'm never gonna hide it.”
OK, cool. So far, so good. Then, on the flipside of respectfulness, Cardi B raps, “I steal your bitch, have her down with the scissor / Tonight, I don't want a dog, I want a kitten / I might French a girl from Great Britain.” Now, here you can start to see some potential problems.
Other lyrics in the track have been called out for their questionable connotations. Despite Rita’s perhaps best efforts, some of the lines—for example, “Red wine, I just wanna kiss girls, girls, girls,” or “'68 Chevy with nothin' to do / Just rollin' J's, kush lovin'”—have been deemed offensive by members of the LGBT community all over the web, and LGBT artists have taken note, calling them out as trivializing and cliché on their social media accounts.
“Girls'” most vocal opponents? High–profile queer artists Hayley Kiyoko and Kehlani. The two have both taken to Twitter to air their grievances against “Girls” and the stereotypes of LGBT folks, especially women, the song perpetuates.
“I fully support other artists who freely express themselves and applaud male and female artists who are opening up more about their sexual identities,” Kiyoko tweeted. “But every so often there comes certain songs with messaging that is just downright tone–deaf, which does more harm than good for the LGBTQ+ community.”
Kiyoko rightfully pointed out, “I don’t need wine to kiss girls. I've had relationships with women my whole life.” She further wrote that the song “marginalizes the idea of women loving other women,” and that it “invalidates the feelings of an entire community”—that community being non–hetero folks.
While Kiyoko was (comparatively) more relaxed and tactful with her response, Kehlani took a more ‘minimalist’ approach.
“Hate to be THAT guy but there were many awkward slurs, quotes, and moments that were like ‘word?’,” Kehlani tweeted on Friday. “There. Were. Harmful. Lyrics. Period.”
Kehlani insisted that her attack “was not personal,” mentioning that she has songs out with some of the artists and has no problem with them individually as people.
Rita issued an apology, also on Twitter, stating that “Girls” was meant to “represent [her] truth” and her own “personal journey,” regarding her bisexuality and promised that she would “never intentionally cause harm to other LGBT folks.
The lesson here? Maybe consult or feature LGBT artists, instead of going for the biggest names and bang for your buck.