The track—assisted by Cardi B, Charli XCX, and Bebe Rexha—has a similar vibe to Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl,” as it includes lines like: “Red wine, I just wanna kiss girls” and “Tonight, I don't want a dog, I want a kitten.”
Ora shed some light on the song’s meaning in a recent interview with People magazine, insisting “Girls” was intended to celebrate “gender-fluid freedom.”
“It really represents freedom and the chance to be what you want to be—and there being no judgment and just living your life as you want to live it,” she said. “That’s what this song represents to me every time I hear it.”
That message was apparently lost on some people.
Less than 24 hours after the song hit streaming services, queer artist Hayley Kiyoko released a statement on social media that referred to the song as “tone-deaf” and regressive. The singer claimed “Girls” fueled “the male gaze while marginalizing the idea of women loving women.”
Kiyoko wrote: “This type of messaging is dangerous because it completely belittles and invalidates the very pure feelings of an entire community. I feel I have responsibility to protect that whenever possible. We can and should do better.”
Kehlani, who also identifies as queer, co-signed Kiyoko’s statement, claiming she loved and supported every artist on the track, but found some of the lyrics “harmful.”
As of press time, Ora has not publicly responded to the criticism.