Rita Ora has dropped the lush video for her controversial single “Girls.” Earlier this month, LGBTQ artists and fans criticized Ora and the track’s featured artists —Cardi B, Bebe Rexha and Charli XCX — for the song’s lyrics.
The clip opens with Ora in a Grecian scene of blonde women holding hands and laying together. The rest of the artists are seen separately: Rexha appears in a mirrored room while XCX is surrounded by cacti in the middle of a pitch black night. Cardi B virtually interacts with Ora as the latter summons her through futuristic goggles. In light digital distortion, the pair kiss before the song’s final chorus.
Following the release of “Girls,” openly lesbian, bisexual and queer female artists like Kehlani and Hayley Kiyoko took to social media to call out what they perceived to be offensive, exploitative lyrics. They noted that the song, which was written by a majority male team of songwriters, built upon male gaze-y stereotypes of sexual intimacy between two women. In the process of apologizing, Ora publicly came out as bisexual and emphasized that the song’s story was about her personal experiences.
“I would never intentionally cause harm to other LGBTQ+ people or anyone,” Ora wrote. “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.”
In an interview with Rolling Stone, XCX defended the song and apologized for offending members of the LGBTQ+ community, noting the conversations she had with many of the artists who shared public critiques of the lyrics. “I just really want to learn from this situation,” she said. “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.”