With DJ Laz
As part of HITS 97.3's HITS Sessions
Grand Central, Miami
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Finding a pop star with a real set of pipes feels like trying to win the lottery. You know it's possible, but the odds are long.
Last night, Rita Ora stopped by downtown Miami's Grand Central for a superintimate acoustic performance of her budding and Billboard hits. It was MTV Unplugged style, as she and her guitarist sat atop stools on the stage, telling little stories behind the songs. This was maybe the best possible way to enjoy Ms. Ora for the first time, because, low and behold, this girl can really, really sing.
Hosted by HITS 97.3, "Miami's new #1 for all the hits," the free-with-RSVP event brought fans a little closer to this British artist who's yet to release any official album in America.
"I wanted to physically be here with this record," she explained to the audience. "I'm actually living and working here."
When we arrived, she was belting through "R.I.P." to a stunned crowd. The lights were perfectly dim for the romantic serenade. The whole thing gave new depth to Ora's recorded catalog, which is actually more like hard-edged pop with lots of rap features. We kind of prefer her this way, to be honest.
See also: 22 Richest Pop Stars of 2014
Ora teased the crowd, wondering if should she do a new song, an old song, or maybe even something unreleased. A fan shouted out a title and she was all "Sure, let's do that."
That was an geographically relevant version of "Party and Bullshit." She kept changing the lyrics on the fly to reflect that she was in Miami, and people were extra-excited. She was obviously excited too.
"This is only my second time in Miami ever in my life," she said. "So I appreciate seeing all your faces."
Ora reminded us to tune in to the VMAs to watch her perform her next song live, adding that it's a song "about girl empowerment," then she did the not-so empowering thing of calling out the blondes and then the brunettes, but whatever. #Feminism, amirite?
Of course, that song was her latest radio hit with Iggy Azalea, "Black Widow." She didn't bother to do the "rappy bits" because she admittedly "can't rap," but her stripped-down version of the trap-inspired anthem still worked the crowd into a chant-along. There may have even been a fist pump or two.
See also: Ten Softest Rappers in the Game
Ora concluded the night with a personal story about how she wrote the night's final song with a man that used to be her boyfriend, and we all know she was talking about Calvin Harris. The dissolution of their relationship and the drama surrounding his blocking her from playing their duet "I Will Never Let You Down" on television was quite highly publicized, and everyone was all oohs and ahhs at the non-mention of his name.
"He's a really good friend of mine," she said, explaining that the song was about trying to make it work long distance, and ended up being a "really great song to dance to."
"Never Let You Down" was the high point of the night, as everyone sang along to the chorus and taped it with their camera phones while Ora and the rest of us got caught up in the rush of it all. She's smart to have waited to attack the States until she was physically here. Her power lies in her presence, and we've no doubt she'll have the U.S. charts taken over by next summer.
Once her set was finished, she instructed us to make some noise before HITS 97.3's Kimmy Kim grabbed the mic to excitedly tell us to "give Miss Rita a big hell yes!"
People did not want that shit to be over. They kept chanting Ora's name, but you can't pull an encore at a radio mini-show. So instead, we busied ourselves by taking pictures with DJ Laz, the timeless Miami legend who was on hand to host the event. We're glad he's back to work in the 305, launching a new morning show with Kimmy Kim on HITS 97.3, and we're glad Rita Ora has come to take over the pop scene.
Finally, someone who actually deserves it.
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