Clad in a black cutout bodysuit and fishnet stockings, with a sleek blonde updo to match, Dua Lipa performed Don’t Start Now during the MTV Europe Music Awards 2019 with a newfound sound and stage presence. She stood out in a sea of yellow with a calculated yet easy flow, urging the audience to never stray their eyes from her. It felt like a rebirth, and this new image of Dua Lipa has been one that shows an already well-lauded musician continuing to cement her place in the music industry.
When the Grammy-winning artist released her full sophomore album, aptly titled ‘Future Nostalgia’, we went into a deep dive of dance and disco. Drawing from the pop roots of her self-titled debut from 2017, she has since evolved into a musician inspired by the ‘80s disco scene, prompting a feeling of nostalgia, creating an unshakeable impulse to just sway our hips and feel the music. In the midst of quarantine, the album feels like a reminder of all good things. She marries the modern and the classic — both in words and melody, starting off with title track Future Nostalgia, a strong opener to a sonically cohesive album, laying ground for the party that is to come. As you listen from one song to the next, trying to sit still will prove to be a challenge. Trust me when I say that it’s simply not possible to get through the whole album without at least bopping your head up and down.
The buildup that led to the album’s release was a steady stream of musical goodies. She released a live performance video of Don’t Start Now, featuring a full band of instrumentalists that added another layer of depth to her musicality and performance. After Don’t Start Now, the release of Physical was met with another round of applause. Dua performed at the Mnet Music Awards in South Korea with MAMAMOO’s Hwasa, and proceeded to release a collaboration with her for a special release of Physical. When ‘Future Nostalgia’ was finally out, the dance-pop brilliance that it is did not come as a surprise, and was met with even more clamor.
As someone who has followed Dua Lipa ever since I saw a video of her performing Blow Your Mind at Capital FM’s Summertime Ball in 2017, listening to ‘Future Nostalgia’ felt as if I was seeing her grow out of her shell. Her consistently raspy vocals meld well with the disco synths throughout the album, and her songwriting shines through the catchy, defiant and witty lyrics.
In Pretty Please, she is as confident as it gets, taking charge, singing “I know that I seem a little stressed out / But you’re here now, and you’re turning me on / I wanna feel a different kind of tension.” In Levitating, she picks up the pace with catchy lines about a love that feels inter-galactic. In Break My Heart, she reflects the anxieties that come with the uncertainty of falling in love. And as we are all locked down in our homes because of quarantine, the “Stay at home” line was a happy coincidence that made the love anthem a bop to fill in our days of isolation.
It is in Love Again that Dua bares her soul even more, speaking truths about falling in love when the possibility of a heartbreak feels imminent. When I asked her what her favorite song off the album is, she picked Love Again after laughing and saying that it feels like I am asking her to choose among her children. “I’ll sink my teeth in disbelief / ’cause you’re the one that I want I can’t believe, I can’t believe / I’m not afraid anymore,” she sings. She is vulnerable in a way that doesn’t feel forced, and it is in those raw moments of exposure that we get to know her as someone who has felt love and heartbreak over and over again.
She closes the album with the genius that is Boys Will Be Boys, where she sings about the absurdity of normalizing violence against women. She is sarcastic and real, making a statement with a light-sounding melody that contrasts the weight of her words. The song seems to stick out like a sore thumb among dance bops, but it shows a glimpse of Dua Lipa as the person away from being a musician. Away from the limelight, she is a woman who knows what it is like to live in man’s world, and putting such a statement as the ending piece of a well-crafted album is to show her solidarity to all the women in the world. We have all grown up with the overused excuse that “boys will be boys,” but here, Dua Lipa is the voice of reason when she counters it with: “But girls will be women.”
I keep looking back to the 10-minute phone call I had with Dua Lipa for this interview — the choppy conversation, where I tried to keep my fangirl tendencies at bay as I asked her about her music. It seems surreal to me, how just a week prior to that, I was bopping to Break My Heart in my room after a stressful day of working through my laptop. Dua Lipa, in all her glory, seemed so close to plain old me during that phone call. She spoke of how creating this album made her feel free, and the importance of speaking out about important issues. How grateful she is that people all over the world have come to love her artistry, and how she finds even more value in connecting with her fans during this pandemic. As a fan, as a woman, and as someone who enjoys dance parties in my room as much as the next person, ‘Future Nostalgia’ is one of the few good things that happened in the past month or so. Thank god for Dua Lipa.
Listen to ‘Future Nostalgia’ below: