Ora released “Girls,” which also features Cardi B, Charli XCX and Bebe Rexha and discusses themes of bisexuality, last week to a mixed reception. While some praised the song as a “bisexual anthem,” others pointed out the problematic undertones and queer stereotypes perpetuated by the lyrics. Many of the issues stemmed from the fact that the songwriting team behind a song extolling the queer female experience was primarily male.
While apologizing for the messaging of the song, the singer also came out as bisexual. In a note posted on her Twitter account, Ora wrote that the single “was written to represent my truth and is an accurate account of a very real and honest experience in my life.” She goes on to reveal that she has had “romantic relationships with women and men” and maintains that the perspective of the song was her “personal journey.”
She continued the note by apologizing to anyone hurt by the delivery of the song’s message. “I would never intentionally cause harm to other LGBTQ+ people or anyone,” she said. “Looking forward, I hope that continuing to express myself through my art will empower my fans to feel as proud of themselves as I’m learning to feel about who I am.”
Openly out artists Kehlani and Hayley Kiyoko voiced their criticisms on Twitter as well. Kiyoko called the song “downright tone-deaf” for the way it “fuels the male gaze while marginalizing the idea of women loving women.” Kehlani, who appeared on Cardi B’s album, pointed out that there many “awkward slurs” across the song. Both artists emphasized their fandom of all four of the artists on the record as well as support for expressions of sexuality in all forms.
Previously, Ora spoke around her sexual identity when discussing the song. She called it a “gender-fluid freedom anthem” in an interview with People. She also revealed that Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl” was the main inspiration, though that song has received similar backlash since its 2008 release. Just last year, Perry admitted that she would re-write her breakout hit if she could to remove the stereotypes.