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Dua Lipa excels as a vocalist and songwriter on ‘Future Nostalgia’

New album combines the sounds of yesterday and the musical stylings of tomorrow

<p>Dua Lipa is an English singer-songwriter. "Future Nostalgia" is her second major release.</p>

Dua Lipa is an English singer-songwriter. "Future Nostalgia" is her second major release.

Dua Lipa released her second studio album, “Future Nostalgia,” March 27 — a week before its scheduled release date of April 3. The London native’s self-titled debut in 2017 came with widespread commercial success, featuring international smash-hits like “Hotter than Hell,” “IDGAF” and “New Rules” as well as somber ballads like “Thinking Bout You” and “Homesick.”  

Dua Lipa released three singles in 2018, the two better ones being  “One Kiss” with Calvin Harris and “Electricity” with Silk City duo Diplo and Mark Ronson. In 2019, she won two Grammys — Best New Artist and Best Dance Recording for “Electricity.” 

Her music had sold millions of copies and hit the Top 10 for charts across the world even before “Future Nostalgia” or any of its singles had been released. However, the quality of Dua Lipa’s music had some ups and downs at the beginning of her career. Her debut album was pretty disappointing. The only enjoyable songs were the ones previously mentioned, because they contained exhilarating beats on the uptempo songs and interesting lyrics about love on the downbeat songs. Compared to the rest of the album that was very forgettable lyrically and instrumentally. When only five songs are great on a 17 track album — it's a sign for caution — no matter how great those few songs are. 

When listening to Dua Lipa’s best songs, you can hear a rising star in the industry. Evolving from her boring and formulaic debut album, she now has something distinct and memorable that she just needs to embrace in more of her music. To be a pop star at the forefront of the music industry a musician needs a great album to pair with their beautiful singing voice and innovative perspective on music. So the question is, was Dua Lipa able to pull this off on “Future Nostalgia?” Dua Lipa answers this question with a resounding yes. This album is phenomenal.

Let’s start with the singles “Don’t Start Now,” “Physical” and “Break My Heart” these three singles are some of the best songs on the entire album. Part of what makes them great is how they truly embody the spirit of the album’s title.

“I realized that what I wanted to make was something that felt nostalgic but had something fresh and futuristic about it too,” Dua Lipa said in a press release, after she first revealed the album title “Future Nostalgia” in December 2019. “I was inspired by so many artists on the new record from Gwen Stefani to Madonna to Moloko to Blondie and OutKast, to name just a few.” 

“Don’t Start Now” is a beautiful homage to disco music of the 1970s, accompanied by a hard-hitting beat that is immensely fun to dance to. The song tells a story of a relationship that has broken up, and when one partner has finally moved on, the other has decided to swoop back in to try and make things work again. But the one who has moved on is saying that it’s too late to get back together, “Don’t Start Now.” Dua Lipa does a great job of pairing the music of the past with the sentiments of today. 

“Physical” is the best song on the album. Once again Dua Lipa hearkens back to the past, but instead with a tribute to the 1980s. The title and chorus are clear references to 80s hit “Physical” by Olivia Newton-John. Dua Lipa exudes sex appeal throughout the track — as Olivia Newton-John did with her original version. The use of a futuristic techno-beat and the way the song slows to a halt and crescendos into a fast-paced beat helps the song fit better into modern times. It also does a great job of making the track feel exhilarating. “Physical” is excellent, a great pick for parties or exercise playlists for years to come.

“Break my Heart,” the newest single from the album, is marvelous. Utilizing a sample of a different 1980s hit “Need You Tonight” by INXS, the song is about a person in a relationship who is extremely happy while being somewhat worried if their partner will break their heart. Lipa has stated in interviews that this is how she felt sometimes when she began dating her current boyfriend Anwar Hadid. 

The deep cuts from the album are also fantastic, the best being “Future Nostalgia”, “Levitating” and “Love Again.” “Levitating” is a groovy song about the freeing feeling of being in love — almost like you're levitating. Featuring a new age beat with a subtle influence of Daft Punk, it has to be one of the best songs on the album. What really stands out on “Love Again” is the beat utilizing electric guitar, acoustic guitar, percussion and violins combined in a synthesized beat. This production is just one of many examples of the amazing vocal and instrumental technique seen throughout this entire album.

The titular “Future Nostalgia” is the first track of the album and does a masterful job of setting the stage for the entire work with its opening lines, “You want a timeless song / I wanna change the game.” Dua Lipa embodies this idea not just on the title track, but throughout the entire album.

As fantastic as the album is, no album is perfect. On “Good in Bed,” the singer leans on a common story trope — a couple that argues and fights a lot being very compatible sexually — which feels more tired and old, especially on such a forward-thinking album. As Dua Lipa says in the chorus, this song is “bad, bad, bad, bad, bad”— it definitely should have been left on the cutting room floor.

Titling an album “Future Nostalgia” puts an artist into a pretty difficult position. How do you combine the music of the past, today and maybe even the future? Dua Lipa has done an incredible job of executing both influences on “Future Nostalgia.” Now was the perfect time to release the album because it fully establishes Dua as a pop superstar and will be a blueprint for music throughout the 2020s. If you have some free time while cooped up in the house in quarantine, give Dua Lipa’s latest a listen. You won’t regret it.

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