With her soulful vocals and joyful energy, British-Albanian pop singer Rita Ora made her debut in the late 2000s, quickly rising to the top of the U.K. charts with her debut album Ora. Even after years of label issues threatened to halt her career, she remained on the charts and issued the triumphant sophomore effort Phoenix in 2018.
Born Rita Sahatçiu in Pristina, Kosovo to Albanian parents, she fled the former Yugoslavia with her family in 1991, relocating to England, where she was raised in Notting Hill. An attendee of the famous Sylvia Young Theater School, she sang from an early age and honed her skills singing in pubs and at open mikes. In 2007, she made her first official appearance, guesting on Craig David's single "Awkward"; the next year, she joined Tinchy Stryder on his single "Where's Your Love." Her big break arrived in 2009, when an open mic performance attended by one of Jay-Z's A&R men landed her a deal with the rapper's label, Roc Nation. While working on her debut album, she provided the vocals for DJ Fresh's 2012 drum'n'bass hit "Hot Right Now," which topped the charts in the U.K. She returned to the number one spot that same year with her debut solo single, "R.I.P.," the first taste of her first full-length, Ora, which went straight to the number one spot on the U.K. album charts.
Six years would pass before a proper sophomore follow-up, as Ora remained mired in label issues (eventually leading to a messy split with Roc Nation in 2016). Yet she remained on the charts with a consistent string of singles and collaborations, notably 2014's "Black Widow" with Iggy Azalea (her first Top 10 in the U.S.); 2015's "Poison"; 2017's Top 10 hit "Your Song," and 2018's "For You," a duet with Liam Payne for the Fifty Shades Freed soundtrack that topped charts across Europe and was a modest hit in the U.S. Her official sophomore full-length, the aptly-titled Phoenix, finally arrived in late 2018 on Atlantic Records. Along with a star-studded list of producers -- including Alesso, Avicii, Benny Blanco, and Cashmere Cat -- Ora also recruited Julia Michaels ("Keep Talking"), Rudimental ("Summer Love"), and Cardi B, Bebe Rexha, and Charli XCX on the single "Girls." ~ Neil Z. Yeung