Who else has been hoping that the DJ echoes Rita Ora’s foxy sampling of Slim’s 1998 ‘Praise You’ around the dance floor since it came out in April? Not just us, huh? We can’t be lonesome bees. However, it was an initial taste of what she’s been up to, arranging her third album, You & I. Having been a big fan of Slim, it already ticked one of those checkbox requirements, but it also highlighted another: the themes of this record.
While ‘Praising You’ featuring Fatboy Slim showcased one of her loves, her husband Taika Waititi, it’s only one of the umbrellas of what the bigger word falls under. What are the others? Well, love for self. As much as there’s an ampersand between You & I representing that these days she’s definitely tying herself to someone else, the only way she got there is through self-healing, and the track that most shows it is ‘Girl in the Mirror.’
It sits at track 10 and is a conversational piece between her, and we’ll allow you to fill in the blank ___. No! Jk. We’ll spell it out easily though it’s already there, her reflection. When giving a bit of behind-the-scenes for the song itself, Rita explains that its essence was inspired by Christina Aguilera’s ‘Beautiful,’ another self-empowering anthem. So we thought we’d examine why this is the case and give a further analysis of Rita’s song!
I was really inspired by Christina Aguilera’s music video for “Beautiful” and this song is my version of that. I faced my fears and put them in the song. It’s about self-love.
Rita Ora talks to Apple Music
Firstly, why mirrors? Besides, the most apparent symbolism is that it ties into beauty standards, adds the extra word of “work” to it, and you have a spiritual self-love tool. Mirror work is essentially where you recite affirmations in front of yourself, noticing the minimal twitches in your facial expressions and seeing how much resistance you have towards what you’re telling yourself. If you stumble over affirmations tied to your confidence at first, that’s okay. The repetition of saying it will inevitably rewire your brain’s neural pathways to think differently and turn it into mirror play where you can soak up your iconic self.
The ‘Beautiful’ Context
From that perspective, it would then make sense why our seed of inspiration for ‘Girl in the Mirror’ comes from Christina Aguilera’s ‘Beautiful’ OG music video, where various people who are learning to accept themselves take a glimpse through mirrors.
We say OG because Christina revisited it last year, reworking her 2009 version into one featuring primarily young children with surgical marks dotted on their faces, each lining up to fit into today’s standards that are often on social media platforms like Instagram. They additionally clue into this by girls in dancer costumes lifting their phones like it’s their own synchronized routine to take selfies.
“‘Cause we are beautiful no matter what they say.”
One youngin is even obsessed with maturing far too early as what first looks like dozens of the same swimsuit model blue-tacked to her wall is actually her putting the puzzle pieces of a jigsaw version of that photo together, syncing up with the lyric “Trying hard to fill the emptiness, the piece is gone, / Left the puzzle undone, ain’t that the way it is?” Towards the end, the moody blue lighting turns into daylight as the children return to the forest, somewhere that genuinely represents their youth where they’re innocent.
Mirrors are also referenced in that music video through the use of ring lights and camera phones, but as we were saying, where it truly makes an appearance is in the 2009 version. Christina even has her own moment, staring into a mirror in a room that is desolated, its windows boarded up by tabloid articles. What stands out, however, is the direct two-shot back and forth between a young girl staring at her reflection because of her perceived weight and then another having gender disformity. It’s a brilliant piece of art stating that our “true reflection” isn’t often that at all; instead, something that’s been constructed, and what we are underneath it all is beautiful.
Reflection Of The ‘Girl in the Mirror’
Rita takes this concept of mirrors by penning a letter to the person who’s staring back at her in ‘Girl in the Mirror,’ aka herself, but what’s important to note is that she makes this point vague at first, missing this vital thread until the chorus hits, which is after a verse and pre-chorus. If, at first, you thought it was someone she has a better connection with, then we wouldn’t judge you entirely, like we kinda have to because the title is there; still, we digress. There are lyrics such as “I’m sorry, I love you, it’s just that I found someone better” and “I cheated on you in the best way / With someone I’ve known my whole life,” which though aid to the mystery, giving subtle breadcrumbing clues, again we’ll give you some leeway.
Speaking of, the lyrics of this track are so captivating, written by Rita alongside Rollo Spreckley, OAK, Alex Niceforo, and Keith Sorrells. We’ll stay within the vivid means of the first verse: “Held onto my angels by giving the devil a break (Ah).” This is such a beautiful way to abstractly display the art some of us have of talking down to ourselves, and often it’s not just a tirade of criticism. We’ve gotta give ourselves some credit because there’s also that positivity there, but since it’s conversing back and forth like those angels and devils that sit on either side, sometimes the latter does win.
“I glow, oh / Oh, oh, oh, oh / In the mirror, the mirror, yeah.”
However, Rita’s gone through her healing period prior to writing ‘Girl in the Mirror’ to let the positive in finally. Especially after, “We’ve got such a crazy past / She always used to put me last.” What this lyric does is that it ties into the usage of “cheating” prior as well as “And she’s someone I’ve always wanted for now and forever.” It shows the two scales. Before, she would cheat herself by lowering her standards; now, it sounds like a wedding vow that she’s given herself, seeing her as her own soulmate. That’s the sorta level up we like to see!
Production-wise, its intro is something straight out of a fairytale, with atmospheric sounds of birds chirping that, of course, could be whistles, but it’s setting us up for that realization that she has while also contrasting what we’ve stereotypically been set up to believe: that our soulmate is someone else, usually a prince. This dies down around the pre-chorus when that naughty club mix Rita’s known for overpowers it before coming together in a perfect blend. There’s even playground chanting on the post-chorus!
Further Mirror Scribblings
Will you be the ‘Girl in the Mirror’ reciting Rita’s song back to yourself as a form of self-love work? Or perhaps you’ve already had your first listening sesh of You & I accompanied by Genius lyrics (there are no amateurs here!) and have another top-tier ranking of the album. If you’re the first girlie, let us know @thehoneypop, and if you’re the second, let us know again, though this time, come gifting other tracks because we want to squeal alongside you.