In the last week I've had the pleasure of seeing two of music's hottest new talents play the same venue. Rita Ora and Azealia Banks are in Australia as part of the Future Music festival but both found time for Sydney side-shows at the Enmore. They were great but the proximity of the gigs highlighted their comparative strengths and weaknesses - and confirmed my suspicion that neither lady has really found her niche just yet. Let's start with the Yung Rapunxel. I love this girl and don't give two fucks if she sits on Twitter 24/7, calling people faggots and feuding with Z-grade rappers. She is living, breathing entertainment - and brought that raw, borderline-manic energy to her live show.
You know you're in for wild ride when the people standing next to you look like escapees from the Jerry Springer set. There were the desperate bitches in hot pants, grinding away like the world wasn't watching their shimmering muffin tops. The suburban white boys dressed like 50 Cent and the indie-gays prancing around like Drag Race contestants. Oh and let's not forget the marijuana fumes that hovered over the crowd like rain clouds at Mardi Gras. It redefined hot mess but I honestly didn't expect anything else and secretly reveled in the ratchetivity.
The show was brief but vibrant. Azealia mostly performed songs from her Fantasea mixtape and 1991 EP, delivering a non-stop stream of '90s dance-infused hip-hop. Highlights included the Diplo-produced "Fuck Up The Fun", a sleek and sexy rendition of "Van Vogue", the hit single that never happened ("Esta Noche") and, of course, her signature tune - "212". As much fun as it was, the weave addict still has work to do on her sound. After a while the songs all bled into one. She is currently a bit of a one trick pony. Happily that one trick is pretty amazing and she has the extra something. Anyone that comes out to twerk in the crowd pre-show is alright by me.
Rita Ora is a more polished product than Azealia. As a graduate of the Roc Nation school of superstar grooming, she is perfectly presented and well-equipped with a designer purse full of tracks from the hottest producers in the music business. I know some people have a problem with Albania's greatest export - she's too similar to Rihanna, has no personality, cheated on Rob Kardashian with 20 men etc - but I enjoyed her debut album and, unlike the woman she's accused of imitating, she has genuine vocal talent. It's too early to predict Rita's future but I'd like to remind the haters that it took Breezy's punching bag three albums to develop her own sound. Give her a break!
There isn't a lot to say about the production. Roc Nation's third lady (behind Beyoncé and Kylie) only had a couple of projections and a microphone. That's enough when you have less than an hour to play and a killer debut album to pull songs from. She played all her hits - "R.I.P.", "How We Do" (complete with a Notorious BIG medley), the incredibly catchy "Shine Ya Light", current single "Radioactive" (below) and my personal theme song "Roc The Life". An unexpected highlight was "Hello, Hi, Goodbye", which is a no brainer for the 28th single from ORA.
The problem with Rita is hard to pinpoint. She has a great voice, amazing style and access to all the hitmakers. But so did Alexis Jordan and look where it got her. I have higher hopes for the unnatural blond but she needs to find her own voice. Why not explore her heritage with some world beats? Kind of like Shakira but without the growling and otherworldly flawlessness? Chances are she won't get that adventurous but Rita needs to find her own lane if she wants to shake the highly offensive poor man's Rihanna title. Fun gig though.