Rita Ora assembled a buzzy squad of pop stars for her latest single, “Girls,” enlisting Charli XCX, Bebe Rexha, and Cardi B. But the song has been met with disappointment from some fans and critics, including queer artist Hayley Kiyoko, who released a statement on Friday (May 11) explaining the issues she has with it.
“Every so often there come certain songs with messaging that is just downright tone-deaf,” she wrote. “A song like this just fuels the male gaze while marginalizing the idea of women loving women. I know this wasn’t the intention of the artists on the song, but it’s the lack of consideration behind these lyrics that really get me. I don’t need to drink wine to kiss girls; I’ve loved women my entire life.”
On “Girls,” Ora, Rexha, Charli, and Cardi proclaim their desire to kiss other women after smoking joints and drinking red wine. In an interview with People, Ora explained that the song was partially inspired by Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl,” and that its embrace of bi-curiosity is meant to be empowering. “It really represents freedom and the chance to be what you want to be — and there being no judgment and just living your life as you want to live it,” she said.
According to Kiyoko, however, the track “does more harm than good for the LGBTQ+ community,” which she’s become somewhat of an icon for — her diehard fans have nicknamed her “Lesbian Jesus” because she openly celebrates her queerness. It’s a role that she clearly takes seriously, as she explains why she feels her community is being unfairly portrayed, and even exploited.
“This type of messaging is dangerous because it completely belittles and invalidates the very pure feelings of an entire community,” her statement continued. “I feel I have responsibility to protect that whenever possible. We can and should do better.”
Read Kiyoko’s entire statement below.