Playing to her strengths with an independently minded pop return...
'Phoenix'

Rita Ora’s new album is finally here ‘Phoenix’ following a four year wait, and with a multitude of high-profile collaborations it takes you on the journey of her growth as a singer.

The 12-track album - with the deluxe edition boasting four extra songs - starts off with the oddball pop number ‘Anywhere’ which remains one of her standout singles from last year before hitting her stride with ‘Let You Love Me’. The album - which comes after numerous setbacks as far as label and producers are concerned - is a nostalgic yet refreshing collection of songs that oscillates seamlessly between upbeat pop offerings to raw pieces which showcases the 27-year-old’s songwriting skills.

Sassy, honest track ‘New Look’, which is the first new track within the album leaves you wanting more, while already well-known ‘Your Song’, ‘Lonely Together’ and ‘For You’, leave you reaching for the replay button despite having heard them before.

‘Phoenix’ perfectly blends Rita’s subdued moments like in R&B slow jam ‘Only Want You’ with lighter easy-listen tracks like ‘Girls’, which despite previous controversies remains a good enough pop track.

Following ‘Girls’ are other instantly likeable ‘Summer Love’ and ‘Hell Of A Life’. ‘First Time High’ remains a standout to me, as its breezy sounds grace your ears and leaves you feeling happier and lighter, and as the name suggests, leaves you on quite the high. Another standout is ‘Body On You’, a relatable track, which in contrast to ‘First Time High’, grounds you as she bares her heart to an ex-lover.

But the track ‘Keep Talking’ seems to slow the pace of an otherwise repeat-worthy offering. And from here on the album shifts to showcase more of a jazz and R&B influenced sound with ballads like ‘Velvet Rope’ and ‘Cashmere, before most recent release ‘Falling To Pieces’ ties the album together with its rather more left-field electronic stylings.

In spite of an occasional experimentation, overall the album plays to her strengths - as her vocals and lyricism shine - without straying too far from her signature pop and R&B sound. Honest, polished and with tracks that are varied enough to keep you on your toes, ‘Phoenix’ has been four years in the making, waiting in the wings to see the light. And now that it’s finally here, 'Phoenix' is definitely worth checking out.

8/10

Words: Malvika Padin

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