Although we’re normally keen on song lyrics round here, now and again we go for something else. Today it’s peerless vocals and expert production.
Which is just as well.
The lyrics to “Ritual” are no worse than many other pop songs, but if that’s all there was to the song, I wouldn’t be writing about it today.
I’ve long had a real thing for Rita Ora’s voice…one of the stand-out voices of the current generation of female vocalists, in my opinion at least.
It’s powerful and determined in her low-to-mid-range…but she still manages to convey a hint of vulnerability and uncertainty with it which makes for an interesting feel. And towards the top end of her vocal range, Rita Ora’s voice has such a sweet tone to it, I could listen to her all day.
So I was already half-way sold on “Ritual” as soon as I knew Rita Ora was involved.
And the stellar reputations of both Tiesto and Jonas Blue went before them. As I pressed play I was expecting a perfectly decent and professional production to set the mood around a voice I love to listen to. I was all set up for a very pleasurable three minutes ahead.
But a few seconds in, I was utterly hooked.
I normally find EDM a bit same-y and can only take it in small doses. Of course, we can argue all day whether “Ritual” is technically EDM, but it certainly takes its cues from that genre so it’s probably close enough for our purposes today.
But Tiesto and Jonas Blue, together with Michael Stonebank who gets a production credit alongside the two named artists, somehow managed to take a track which could easily have been very formulaic and turned it into a genuine work of art.
There’s a fullness and a richness to the sound that you’d struggle to find on many EDM tracks. I know I’m more obsessed about that sort of thing than the average record buyer, but songs which are more or less just a beat and a vocal bore me pretty quickly.
I like to explore every nook and cranny of a record and there are more nooks and crannies on a motorway than there are on the average EDM track.
Thankfully, “Ritual” is no average EDM track.
Yes, all the bits and bobs you might expect are there. But it’s not just the usual superficial breezing through three minutes in time, almost as if the performer is in a rush to get to the next track and does the bare minimum beyond laying down some beats and a vocal.
There’s a depth to “Ritual” and more than enough nooks and crannies to keep my ears and my brain busy. At the same time, it’s a real “turn the dial up to 11” song if it comes on in the car. As long as there’s no-one else with me, I go as loud as I dare.
The lyrics tell a tale of obsession. Someone who’s so into another human being they have more or less melded into one…
You leave my bed
You’re in my head
You’re all I need
As ever, it seems the path to true love hasn’t been entirely smooth…
Oh come on, come on
However I act, you know how much I care
It took me a long time to work this out…several years too late, admittedly…but nowadays I recognise how people act toward you is exactly what they think of you, even if they pretend otherwise with the words they say.
So even if it was someone whose voice I enjoyed listening to as much as Rita Ora’s, I suspect I’d be packing my bags and heading out the door if she acted in a way that made me think she didn’t care. Even if she did think I “ought to know how much she cared”.
Life’s too short to suffer the slings and arrows of another human being for long, even if they claim to care for you. In fact, especially if they claim to care for you…
But thankfully we’re only talking about a record here, not real-life. So I’m prepared to overlook that point and just enjoy “Ritual” for what it is…one of the best production jobs I’ve heard in recent years allied with one of my favourite voices of the moment.
“Ritual” is smooth, stylish and intense, all at the same time. The soundscape is full and complex. There’s never a sense that this is one of those tracks which has been dialled into a MacBook halfway around the world and delivered with all the panache of a bank teller’s note counting machine.
On the contrary, “Ritual” has been lovingly burnished. Every little piece of it has been polished to a fine sheen.
It’s the musical equivalent of a brand new Aston Martin in a a swanky 5th Avenue or Park Lane showroom…gleaming from end to end, handcrafted and stylish beyond belief while packing a punch that belies its beauty.
I’m not a music academic…or any sort of musician or academic, for that matter…but if I was, I’d be putting “Ritual” on the syllabus for my class to demonstrate what perfection in production sounds like.
If you start with perfection in production and then layer Rita Ora’s voice on top, frankly it’s going to be hard to come up with a better record than that, from my perspective at least.
You may not think “Ritual” sounds like “your sort of thing” from the way I’ve talked about it so far. And admittedly it isn’t the sort of song that usually gets airtime around here.
But I’d strongly recommend giving “Ritual” a try if you haven’t come across it before. It’s been one of my favourite songs since it came out in the middle of 2019 and it’s a vocal and production masterclass to boot.
I hope you enjoy Rita Ora’s voice as much as I do…and Tiesto, Jonas Blue and Michael Stonebank between them more than hold up the production end of proceedings.
“Ritual” wasn’t a massive hit when it first came out — Number 24 in the UK, a good performer in central and eastern Europe, but virtually unknown in the US.
All I’ll say is that US record buyers have missed out on one of the finest songs of the last year or so. If you’ve missed out on it up till now, give this song a listen. You won’t be disappointed.
Here’s Tiesto, Jonas Blue and Rita Ora with “Ritual”…
If you’ve read this far, thank you for spending a few moments in the company of one of my favourite songs. The video is below, but if you prefer listening to your music on Spotify, you can find today’s track here… https://open.spotify.com/track/3M9Apu4OZfylLTFKvgEtKa?si=GrB3inNuQYWOWsleMT5UAg