When Rita Ora and her myriad collaborators released “Girls” in May, there was pushback and much debate over whether the song was a queer power anthem or a piece of exploitative trash. The lyrics, largely written by men, were criticized for stereotyping lesbian romance as nothing more than casual, drunk fun among straight friends. Truth be told, the song’s greatest weakness is that it got pretty old, pretty fast, and if not for its questionable subject matter, “Girls” would be just another run-of-the-mill, candy-coated pop track to absentmindedly add to our summer playlists.
That was “Girls” the song. On Wednesday, “Girls” the music video was released.
The first thing you’ll notice is that Rita Ora and her arched eyebrows are completely on their own. As in, she and her collaborators—Charli XCX, Bebe Rexha, and Cardi B—couldn’t even get on one damn set together at the same time. But don’t worry! The video makes up for this by having four unrelated concepts smashed together, with each woman as its star.
Rita lounges among a harem of women at what looks like the Mirage in Vegas. Charli XCX frolics through green-screened woods at night because......why not?? Bebe Rexha is trapped inside a YouTube ’80s remix video.
And Cardi B is......a giant Bladerunner hologram! (Rita is there, too, ogling up at her through Google Ski Goggles.) Not since Christina Aguilera’s hair in “Lady Marmalade” have I been this baffled by (and amused with) a collaborative video’s artistic choices.
“Girls” wasn’t directed by a queer woman, or a woman at all, but by mononymous French director Helmi, best known for showing us the insides of the mouths of two teens kissing. (He did also direct the stylish video for Kali Uchis’ “Tyrant.”) According to his bio, Helmi “defines himself as an image maker,” which might explain all the images of women’s butts that he’s fixated on throughout the video. As the musician Michelle Zauner, aka Japanese Breakfast, succinctly tweeted out earlier today: