In a meeting room high in the BBC’s Salford media City, Rita Ora (pop’s new princess and The Voice’s newest coach) and Will.i.am (music producer, technology and fashion enthusiast and Voice veteran) are a little groggy.
The fast-moving Will.i.am is just off a flight from, oh, somewhere, and has hotfooted it straight from Manchester airport. The fast-rising Ora is forever jetting back and forth to the US, especially as she approaches the unveiling, in February, of her first big acting job: a supporting role in the bonkbuster film Fifty Shades of Grey.
They’re the old hand and the newbie. He, the hip-hopper turned unlikely national treasure, returning as a coach (with Tom Jones and Ricky Wilson of Kaiser Chiefs) for the fourth series. She, the Kosovan-born British pop star stepping into the slot previously occupied by Jessie J and Kylie Minogue.
They’re also old pop chums. In his guise as collaborator-producer to the stars (Britney Spears, Cheryl Fernandez-Versini), Will.i.am worked on the debut album of Ora, 24, and has spent time in his Los Angeles studio with her working on songs for her second.
It was the hip-hop Yoda sitting next to her who convinced Ora to overcome her initial hesitation and accept The Voice’s offer. The 39-year-old American recounts his conversation with her thus: “OK, you already put music out. You already have an Adidas deal. I know artists who have been signed for years that haven’t accomplished those things.”
She was sold. But why’s Will.i.am back? “Um…” he begins in that eye-darting, eyebrow-waggling, cosmic-thought way familiar from The Voice. “You know, before I used to go to clubs and girls my age would try to hit on me. But now their moms are hitting on me.”
“I think in other words,” laughs Ora, “it’s expanded his horizons.” “Nah, I like London,” Will adds, getting (a bit) more serious. “I like the UK. I could live here,” he nods. He’s yawning now – they’re in the thick of filming. So while their bodies and brains are together, let’s find out how in harmony they really are…
Immigration v education
RITA ORA I moved to London from Kosovo, without a passport, and now I’m a really good example of why people need to stop paying attention to who’s in the country and pay more attention to education.
WILL.I.AM What could be more important than how smart your child is gonna become in 20 years? It’s unbalanced the amount of time put into discussing immigration.