My new favourite hobby is examining pop collaborations and working out exactly what each person is in it for. For example, Ed Sheeran and Beyoncé both had murky motives when they teamed up for that syrupy duet, and Maroon 5 and SZA knew exactly what they were doing when they jumped into bed together. Every pop collab is mutually beneficial, each artist possessing something the other wants.
In the case of Rita Ora and Liam Payne, the answer is obvious. While Ora is doing her best to elbow her way into mainstream American culture, she needs a chart hit before she can lay any real claim to fame. The nearest she’s come so far was with her 2014 feature on Iggy Azalea’s ‘Black Widow’ (another example of a back-scratching pop collab) that peaked at number 3. Apart from this, she’s never bothered the top 50. Liam Payne, on the other hand, is an established name in the US market, having racked up a handful of US top 10s with One Direction. With his loyal fanbase, he can help guide Ora to another hit.
For his part, Payne will need an actual pop star to help him release anything decent, someone with enough charisma to fill the hole where his should be. Thankfully, Ora is on hand to help. Teaming up for the new Fifty Shades Freed soundtrack, Ora and Payne have debuted ‘For You’, a suitably frisky duet.
Really, Liam Payne doesn’t need to be here. This is essentially a Rita Ora track with an inconvenient bit of Payne slotted in for the sake of mass appeal. Imagine being the sort of person who is more likely to buy a song because it features Liam Payne. These are the people we’re pandering to now.
‘For You’ isn’t the best song spawned by the Fifty Shades saga, and it probably isn’t the second or third best either. It’s not that it’s a bad track, but it’s too conventional to be memorable and features one too many Liam Paynes to be much fun. What begins as a cinematic synth arrangement quickly loses its sheen when finger-clicks and modernist R&B beats take over, descending into a predictable chart track much like its predecessors. As a duo, Payne and Ora have little chemistry, ironically making ‘For You’ about as sexy as the fluffy S&M romp it’s promoting.