It is generally bad news whenever a pop star decides to bless us with an earthy, strummed version of their new club anthem. So here’s a surprise: Rita Ora’s electropop song “Let You Love Me” set to acoustic guitar is a delight. Without all the clutter, it’s a folk-pop song about the bittersweetness of following your heart. And 28-year-old British star can really belt. Her voice adds a dimension of personality that, in the original, gets flattened for the sake of the dance floor.
Ora is better known for feel-good party jams like “R.I.P.” and “I Will Never Let You Down”; for being the red-lipped big-voice next to outsize personalities like Charli XCX, Iggy Azalea and even Snoop Dogg. So Phoenix, her triumphant second album with “Let You Love Me” on it, is a kind of re-introduction. Ora took the Robyn route of Big Introspective Pop: breathy hooks hewn to after-the-club confessions, all reconciled in a steady, thumping chorus. In the mix of instantly-hummable pop songs, “Let You Love Me” stands out with an undeniable beat and strangely appealing pronunciation of “vul-nah-ruh-bull.”
The song’s release was also a career milestone. It was Ora’s thirteenth top-ten hit in the U.K., the most top-ten hits of any British woman in Official Charts history, knocking out Shirley Bassey and Petula Clark, who had 12 each. But more interesting is that of Ora’s 13 hits, “Let You Love Me” is only one of two where she is the only singer on a song she helped write. You could argue that makes “Let You Love Me” her most independent track. When she sings it without all the studio accoutrements, she really (excuse the pun) soars. Would this authentic, acoustic rendition have rocketed to the U.K. Top Ten? Probably not. But it might resonate with the kind of listeners who don’t care about pop hits anyway.