Her first hit in the U.S., “How We Do (Party),” is very Rih-Gaga— all ear-wormy, clubby, and girl-power anthemic—but surely There Will Be Ballads. (Check her tender acoustic take on OutKast’s “Hey Ya!”) “It’s fun to show off your abilities,” she says, spearing a tiny Danish with a bejeweled talon and popping it in her mouth. “Your vocal range, your tone.” Jay-Z signed the Kosovo-born Brit to his label, Roc Nation, in 2009. Then he did the unthinkable: He gave her three years to finish her new debut album, Ora.

For most starlets, that’s a lotta bankable time wasted; for Rita, it was three years to evolve into a singer who will have a—gasp!—career. “The public’s not stupid,” she says. “You can tell an honest artist from one who’s just been given all their songs.”