Rita Ora faced a lot of criticism after releasing “Girls,” a pop posse cut that finds Ora, Cardi B, Charli XCX, and Bebe Rexha singing about exploring their bisexuality: “Sometimes, I just wanna kiss girls, girls, girls/ Red wine, I just wanna kiss girls, girls, girls.” Kehlani, MUNA’s Katie Gavin, and openly gay pop singer Hayley Kiyoko all took to social media to denounce the song, with the latter calling it “downright tone-deaf” and writing, “I don’t need to drink wine to kiss girls; I’ve loved women my entire life.”
In the wake of the backlash, Ora released a statement apologizing for “Girls” and the way it was perceived. “I am sorry how I expressed myself in my song has hurt anyone. I would never intentionally cause harm to other LGBTQ+ people or anyone,” she wrote, going on to explain that the song “was written to represent my truth and is an accurate account of a very real and honest experience in my life” and that she has “had romantic relationships with women and men throughout my life.” In the first verse of the song, she sings, “I ain’t one-sided, I’m open-minded/ I’m fifty-fifty and I’m never gonna hide it.”
Cardi B also took to Twitter to address the controversy, writing, “We never try to cause harm or had bad intentions with the song. I personally myself had experiences with other woman, shiieeett with a lot of woman! I thought the song was a good song and I remember my experience.” And now Charli XCX, another one of Ora’s collaborators on the song, has offered her own take.
“I think the conversation and dialogue around this song is really important. I try so hard to be as involved with the LGBTQ community as possible. Without that community, my career would not really be anything,” Charli told Rolling Stone before opening for Taylor Swift on the Denver stop of the Reputation world tour. “I read Kehlani’s post, Hayley [Kiyoko]’s post, Katie [Gavin] from Muna’s post. I could totally relate to the conversation that was being had. Of course, the intention of the song was never to hurt anybody. None of the artists on this song would ever want to upset or hurt anyone.”
She also reinforced the idea that the song was of personal importance to Ora. “I know from when Rita invited me to be a part of the song, this song was about a specific experience that she had with a woman. I know that Rita’s had extremely meaningful relationships with both men and women,” she explained. “She really does have every right to tell her story because she’s not doing it from an exploitative viewpoint: she’s been with women and had relationships with women. She’s had relationships with men too. I don’t understand why her story is less valid than anybody else’s…Rita had never confirmed her sexuality. She basically felt like she had to come out [because of this].”
Charli continued, “I’ve known Rita for a very long time in this particular journey and in this particular story in her life. I would never want to take anyone’s space in pop music, but Rita is somebody I’ve known for a very long time who has had queer experiences and [I felt] that perhaps this is a safe space for me to be on this record. I apologize to any people I’ve offended by that.”
In conclusion, she says, “I just really want to learn from this situation. I think that’s something we can all do: we can all learn from this conversation. It would be great to continue this dialogue in a positive way — not in an attacking way — so that people can learn about people’s feelings, about people’s sexualities and viewpoints. We can learn to not judge people before we get all the information. We can learn how certain words might make certain communities sad or upset.”