It makes sense that Rita Ora would do an acoustic set for Radio 1–even though she’s on Roc Nation and Jay-Z’s sometime protege and whatnot, she’s still probably bigger in the U.K. than she is anywhere else. Part of the set was an acoustic cover of British single “RIP,” which was no surprise since she’s done that before. But her other song? It technically makes sense that she could do “No Church in the Wild,” it being the latest Watch the Throne single and partly Jay-Z’s work. But it wouldn’t be your first choice for a single, right? It’s not like this is some unauthorized freestyle over the Throne. It’s a promotional event for Rita Ora, with a track from an album whose rollout has been so controlled so far. So maybe this suggests Rita Ora really can be called a protege of Jay’s; this seems like the sort of cover choice someone had to deliberately allow.
But right, the song. It is a complete mess. It doesn’t really work. And yet I’ve listened to it about ten times by now. I can’t even figure out why; it’s like a fortunately/unfortunately game, perhaps:
Unfortunately, this is an acoustic cover of a rap song whose immaculate production by 88-Keys was the best thing about it.
But fortunately, Rita Ora’s got slightly more right to it than some random guy with a guitar, so we’ll let that slide.
Unfortunately, the edit is a mess. “Never fuck no one without telling me” is probably right out for language (though “never touch no one,” the replacement, is rather… clingy), and maybe weed references are out, “You will not control the threesome” is OK? And a cocaine reference that’s not entirely edited out?
But fortunately, Rita at least sings this mess with conviction. In a few places, she even sounds like a certain other singer whose name we never expected to invoke this soon. (Not Rihanna.)
Unfortunately, she can’t quite hit The-Dream’s high notes…
but fortunately, have you heard them? Or tried to sing them yourself? Fifty vocoders and fifty tanks of helium were involved in the making of that falsetto. It’s damn impressive she comes as close as she does.
Unfortunately, there is absolutely no reason for an acoustic cover of “No Church in the Wild” to ever exist, particularly not one this slice-and-diced.
Fortunately, the other way to phrase that is that it’s a risk. Well, OK, covering one of the Throne’s best and most-praised songs isn’t risky at all if you want coverage, but in a musical sense, it’s risky in the exact way that “
Party and Bullshit How We Do” is safe. And fortunately for Rita Ora, I just started the eleventh spin.