New Roc Nation signee Rita Ora performs during her first-ever Los Angeles showcase at the Viper Room in Los Angeles. (Photo: Catie Laffoon)
Thursday night, a crowd lined up outside of West Hollywood's Viper Room for Roc Nation/Columbia Records' new artist Rita Ora's first-ever Los Angeles showcase.
The budding British pop star, who was taken under Jay-Z's wing after signing with Roc Nation, has already stirred up a solid buzz.
"I heard she's the next Beyonce," said singer Manou Oeschger before the show. Her musician boyfriend, Taylor Carroll, said the two were excited to see "the next big thing in such a small and intimate venue."
Rita Ora poses with Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler after her show. Tyler was belting out the lyrics to Ora's single "How We Do (Party)." (Photo: Catie Laffoon)
Tony Blain of Connect Entertainment joked that, "When your friends in the music industry tell you to come check out a new artist that is going to break soon, you go - especially if it's in such a small venue!"
As the crowd filed in, industry execs arrived and snuck off to VIP tables adjacent to the stage - Roc Nation's Jay Brown and Jana Fleishman, Columbia SVP Jim Burruss, Fawn Boardley of Overbrook Entertainment (which is run by James Lassiter, Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith and former CAA agent Ken Stovitz), and Rita's manager, Sarah Stennett of Turn First Artists, who also manages Ellie Goulding and Conor Maynard.
(L-R): Jim Burruss, Senior Vice President Promotion & Marketing Operations Columbia Records; Jay Brown, Co-Founder/President Roc Nation; Fawn Boardley, Overbrook Entertainment. (Photo: Catie Laffoon)
The lights dimmed and at around 8:30 p.m., Rita took the stage clad in a fluffy fur coat. She dove into the sassy chorus of "Facemelt" -- "This the kind of beat that'll make your f---in' face melt" -- before thanking the audience for "taking her in" during her first showcase in Los Angeles. She transitioned into "Roc The Life" and "Shine Your Light," sliding out of the jacket and revealing a black Madonna-esque ensemble. The 21-year old introduced her cover of "Say My Name," explaining that the first time she performed it was in front of her idol. The set ended with her two singles, "R.I.P." (in the U.K.), and "How We Do (Party)" (in the U.S.), the latter of which kicked off with an intro sampling Notorious B.I.G.'s "Party and Bullsh--."
Immediately following the show, Ora braved the crowd and made a beeline to a back table, where Steven Tyler was hanging with Columbia SVP Lee Leipsner. Tyler gave her a hug and many compliments.
The Columbia Crew (L-R): Lee Leipsner, SVP Promotion Columbia Records; Jim Burruss, Senior Vice President Promotion & Marketing Operations Columbia Records; Aimie Vaughan VP Top 40 Promotion Columbia Records; Rita Ora; Ayelet Schiffman, VP Rhythm Promotion Columbia Records; James White, National Director Urban & Rhythm Promotion Columbia Records; Jonathan Palmer, Senior Director of Creative Licensing Columbia Records; and Jeremy Rubin, National Promotion Manager Columbia Records. (Photo: Catie Laffoon)
"I loved her show," Tyler told Billboard.biz. "Especially that last song!" He belted out "And party and bullsh-- and party and bullsh--!" commanding the attention of everyone in the vicinity.
Rita posed for pictures with fans before being whisked away to the London Hotel for a Roc Nation/Columbia after party, where we caught up with members of her management team.
Rita's publicist, Jana Fleishman, said that next on the pop star's agenda are a slew of European tour dates with DJ Fresh, Coldplay and Drake.
(L-R): Jana Fleishman, Rita's publicist with Roc Nation; Donna Haynes, Promotion Coordinator Sony Music/Columbia Records; Liz Hausle, VP Product Marketing at Columbia Records; and Chaka Pilgrim, Marketing at Roc Nation, at the London Hotel for the Rita Ora after party. (Photo: Catie Laffoon)
Zach Dillon, KPLV Program Director and On-Air Personality, told us that he loved the show. "She's got high energy, she's beautiful and she's got the talent that is needed in the pop industry. I think she's going to do very well. And we already started playing her on the station."
Columbia SVP Lee Leipsner said that Rita is putting the finishing touches on her album, which will be released sometime in 2012. "She's gonna spend a lot of time in the US. It's essential to break artists here from the UK by having them spend time here. We just had One Direction spend seven weeks here recently. They worked the entire country and obviously you know where that bought them.
Ora takes the stage at the Viper Room in Los Angeles. (Photo: Catie Laffoon)
"It took two and a half years to get us to this point," he continued. "That's how long she's been working on the record. The songs are just stacked. What she does is where music is going. Actually, I think she's a little bit ahead of the curve and that's why we're so excited about her. She's the complete package. She's really our number one priority, in every way, for all the right reasons."
Duane Adler, Writer/Director - "Step Up/Save The Last Dance" franchise (left) and Tony Blain, Connect Entertainment. (Photo: Catie Laffoon)
Ora told .Biz that she's still reeling from her recent success. "To tell you the truth it happened out of nowhere," she said. "All of a sudden it was literally like I found the rocket, I found the right lighter, and all of a sudden it just exploded. Roc Nation and I have built such a solid relationship that it can only be great." Her upcoming debut LP is tentatively slated for a fall release.
Execs and fans continued Tyler's singalong, walking through the hotel lobby chanting "and party, and bullsh--," stopping to snap pictures with Ora.
Rita Ora & Columbia recording artist T. Mills. (Photo: Catie Laffoon)