Published Mar 27, 2020Despite already having collaborated with the biggest names in pop and winning a Grammy for Best New Artist in 2019, it wasn't until she released "Don't Start Now" that Dua Lipa became a household name. Now dominating the charts and accumulating hundreds of millions of streams, the 24-year-old model-turned-pop sensation has released her highly anticipated sophomore record, Future Nostalgia.
The feel-good nature of Future Nostalgia is enough to momentarily divert our attention from the stress-inducing state of the world. These songs proudly flaunt Lipa's affinity for all things pop, disco, and funk, spanning multiple decades.
Amidst the modern production and electronic elements lies a surprisingly organic foundation. A handful of bombastic drum fills (think Genesis), larger-than-life piano chords (a staple of late '70s disco), and bass lines (most of which run more frequently than they walk), produce a band-like energy that is central to the liveliness of the record. Even when tempos are subdued, like on the smooth grooving "Pretty Please," the marriage of these components gives life to something that's new, yet familiar enough to accept it with open arms.
Songs like "Don't Start Now," and "Future Nostalgia" could have just as easily fit in prior decades as they could in recent memory (akin to Mark Ronson's "Uptown Funk"). And even then, it's more an homage than a blatant attempt to reinvent the wheel.
For much of her career, Dua Lipa has played it safe; vocally, not too much has changed. However, there are a small handful of moments, like on "Cool" and "Physical," where Lipa is captured navigating the limits of her higher register, which make for some of her strongest performances to date.
She's also emphasized the sultriness in her half-sung style. This is best displayed on "Good in Bed," which proudly flaunts a "yeah I just said that" millennial attitude. "We don't know how to talk, but damn we know how to fuck," she sings. It's what makes this playful number one of the cathiest, if not most memorable songs on the record.
The tracklist ends with "Boys Will Be Boys," the album's lonely political stance. Buried beneath ten relationship-focused pop songs, Dua Lipa's critique of the slowly crumbling, male-dominated world, is riddled with kitschy marching band drums, cliché choral additions and lines like "If you're offended by this song, you're clearly doing something wrong." While we can appreciate an artist of her stature using their platform for a just cause, little is added to the conversation that hasn't been said, and it comes across as more of an afterthought than a sincere statement driven by urgency. I would recommend Stella Donelly's "Boys Will Be Boys"; her take on the subject is far more daring, and frankly, moving.
Dua Lipa, on the other hand, does her best at moving us when she makes undeniably infectious dance music — the kind that brings people together and suggests leaving the woes of our lives out of the club, out of sight, out of mind. It's ironic that a collection of songs designed to help listeners escape en masse has dropped when most of the world is stuck in self-isolation and quarantine.
For the time being, it will serve as a soundtrack for dancing in small groups, six feet apart from one another, or perhaps, alone in our rooms while video-conferencing friends. Because Future Nostalgia is dance music for the '20s. Which means we should enjoy it any way we can. (Warner)