More about: Dua Lipa
“You want what now sounds like, let me give you a taste.” Insert now self-proclaimed female alpha Dua Lipa’s sophomore album Future Nostalgia, a dizzying rush of contemporary tinged disco, frothing over with established and potential hits. But, to read this album as nothing more than a hit machine would be to do it a complete injustice. It’s full of clever melodies, unexpected musical flourishes and even takes time to highlight the injustices of our patriarchal society. Pop music rarely feels this good.
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Disco being brought to pop music and ‘updated’ for a contemporary audience is about as innovative as your mum posting on Facebook “a balanced diet is a piece of chocolate in each hand,” yet, Lipa pulls it off in a way that few can. There is a strong confidence in her voice, a knowing cheek in her lyrics and vocal inflections, it’s unafraid to reference its past influences: Prince, Chic, Sister Sledge, Gloria Gaynor and Madonna among others, whilst still bringing those references into the now.
Dua hits the ground running with the opening title track, showing off her confident vocals and her cheeky, slightly off-kilter lyricism, “You want a timeless song, I wanna change the game, like modern architecture, John Lautner coming your way,” and she rarely lets go of the throttle throughout the 11 tracks. She oozes cool as she delivers some of the most well crafted and fun pop songs heard in recent memory; second single ‘Physical’ throws you around the room with its frenetic intensity, ‘Levitating’ is pulled right out of Daft Punk’s repertoire and given some Austin Powers cheek, whilst ‘Break My Heart’ makes the INXS sample sound even more fun now than it ever did.
The growing confidence is obvious and pushes Lipa from the potential she showed on her debut to the fully-fledged pop star she is on this record. Where her first album showed moments of greatness in hits such as ‘New Rules’ and ‘Blow Your Mind’ it was often marred in generic songwriting and unimaginative beats, her second album however is full of satisfyingly catchy hooks and interesting ideas. Lead single and now self-isolation manifesto ‘Don’t Start Now’ showcases this move best, bringing her brand of female-empowerment lyricism to a new slick bassline that just breathes effortlessness and joy.
It isn’t just her music where the growing confidence can be seen, her live performances in the lead up to this album show a significant step up in showmanship and whilst many mainstream pop artists thought it best to delay their album releases given the lack of promotional activities in this current climate, Lipa pushed forward the release of her album hoping to “bring us some happiness” according to her Instagram live.
Whilst most of the album comfortably sits in its hook driven 80s inspired disco heaven, there are moments still for experimentation and new ideas. ‘Pretty Please’ pairs back the in-your-face sound of the previous tracks and allows a simple bassline to accompany her sultry mezzo vocals, slowly allowing a build of funk guitars and cowbells to enter in the bridge and push the song to its satisfying final chorus. ‘Hallucinate’ mixes 90s dance and 00s pop to pulsating effect, in a different world this would already be on its way to becoming a club classic and festival staple.
The last two tracks on the album divert furthest from the ethos of the album. Penultimate track ‘Good in Bed’ sounds like a 2008 Lily Allen banger brought to 2k20. Although the lyrical rhyming scheme of “Bad/Mad” is a little lacklustre, the knowing humour and silliness of the track elevate it beyond the potential cringe factor, whilst the line, “This verse is dedicated to all the good pipe in the moonlight” is forever etched as one of pop’s greatest lyrics. Final track ‘Boys Will Be Boys’ brings down the tempo for a lushly orchestrated ballad about the inherent sexism in society many girls have to face and that so many brush off. Although somewhat clumsily handled in this song, the message is clear and the conversation is important.
With Future Nostalgia, Dua Lipa has brought a much needed joy into the world. She has shown she can be a powerhouse in the pop world and still allow her creative vision to be at the forefront. There should always be music that feels this good - pure pop perfection.
Future Nostalgia is out now via Warner Records.
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More about: Dua Lipa