Rita Ora is back with her latest single “Girls” featuring rapper of the moment, Cardi B and fellow popstars Charli XCX and Bebe Rexha. “Girls” is a fun and carefree pop banger but it’s causing quite a stir amongst the LGBTQ+ community.
After her four consecutive top 10 hits over the past year, anticipation has been high for Rita Ora’s next single. “Girls” is described by Rita Ora as being a celebration of her love for women. On being questioned whether it should be considered as a bisexual anthem, Rita Ora answered “it’s not actually that deep. It really is just about that. It’s a free message, and for me, really fun. It’s just a fun record.” But is it carefree to the point of it being harmful to bisexuality?
The song’s lyrics have come under fire from the likes of Kehlani, Hayley Kiyoko and Katie Gavin from MUNA for being harmful to the perception of bisexuality and reinforcing stereotypes. We only have to look back to 2008 and Katy Perry’s “I Kissed A Girl” to see a pop song that was considered as care free and fun at the time but has since become pretty frowned upon. “Girls” does operate in a similar vein to “I Kissed A Girl”. Both are playing on the idea of the curiosity of women in certain situations, i.e. under the influence of alcohol (playing on the idea of “lesbian until graduation”). However, the key distinction is that “I Kissed A Girl” is very regretful and almost apologetic in tone. It feels like we’re being let in on her dirty secret. Whereas, “Girls” feels more celebratory. It’s a shame the lyrics have been slightly careless – the reference to drugs and alcohol seemingly being the cause was perhaps unnecessary and Rita and the other writers should have foreseen a level of backlash to this.
The upshot is, this is just a pop song that will, like “I Kissed A Girl” be confined to its tiny portion of history whether or not its a huge hit. It’s easy to delve into song meanings and make them feel deeper than they actually are. I think at lot of this debate of whether or not “Girls” is harmful for the LGBTQ+ community is probably just academic in the long term. “Girls” will likely find itself confined to the depths of history before too long and I struggle to see this having a lasting impact on the general public’s perception of that community. I certainly wouldn’t be surprised to see Rita, Charli, Bebe and Cardi in the same position of regret Katy Perry finds herself in today within the next couple of years over some of the lyrical choices.