Rita Ora is speaking out after her new single “Girls” featuring Cardi B, Charli XCX, and Bebe Rexha drew criticism over lyrics that were perceived as problematic to members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Fellow musicians Hayley Kiyoko and Kehlani had criticized the song, which was released Friday, being exploitative of bisexuality. Ora addressed the backlash in a statement posted to Twitter on Monday.
“‘Girls’ was written to represent my truth and is an accurate account of a very real and honest experience in my life. I have had romantic relationships with women and men throughout my life and this is my personal journey,” Ora wrote. “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.”
The song, which is the third single from Ora’s upcoming second studio album, sees the 27-year-old playfully singing about engaging in physical and emotional romantic acts with another woman. “I ain’t one-sided, I’m open-minded / I’m fifty-fifty and I’m never gonna hide it” Ora sings in the tune’s opening verse. Leading up to and through the chorus, XCX (later with the rest of the featured collaborators) adds: “And last night, yeah, we got with the dude / I saw him, he was lookin’ at you / So I said hey, kush lovin’ / Sometimes, I just wanna kiss girls, girls, girls / Red wine, I just wanna kiss girls, girls, girls.”
Ora’s revelation about her personal life comes two years after her “Girls” co-writer Cardi B opened up about her bisexuality in a 2016 radio interview with Power 105.1’s The Breakfast Club.
Kiyoko, who identifies as a lesbian, tweeted about the single shortly after its Friday release, noting that its “tone-deaf” and “dangerous” lyrical content “completely belittles and invalidates the very pure feelings of an entire community.” Kehlani, who also appears on Cardi B’s freshman LP Invasion of Privacy, noted on social media that “every artist on the song is fantastic, and very much loved and supported by me… by all of us,” but that the pushback against what she calls “awkward slurs” isn’t “about talent. It’s about choice.”
“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,” Ora’s statement continues. “I’m ever thankful to my fans for teaching me to love myself no matter what. I have strived to be a contributor to the LGBTQ+ community throughout my entire career and always will be.”
Representatives for Cardi B, XCX, and Rexha did not immediately respond to EW’s request for comment on the song.