Last November, Dua Lipa performed “Don’t Start Now” for the first time at the MTV EMAs—surprising pop music lovers and the bulk of Stan Twitter with her improved choreography and stage presence. Lipa, often referred to as the Wendy Williams-created nickname “Dula Peep,” kicked off her second era as a pop star with a new sense of conviction.
At this particular point in Lipa’s career, keeping up the momentum from a successful debut album can seem like a daunting task. And one could imagine the added pressure of upholding her 2019 Grammy for Best New Artist would also add fuel to the fire.
But thankfully, “Future Nostalgia” is here and it’s all we could ever want from a pop project.
The funky title track, sprinkled with nods to the ‘80s electronic vocoder sound, establishes the album’s concept, which brings in sounds of dance music throughout the decades—similar to what Madonna and Kylie Minouge have done in the past—mixed in with the music of now.
She opens up the song with the lyrics: “You want a timeless song, I wanna change the game.” Basically, this translates to, “I’m going to give you a lesson on what it means to have quality pop music with excellent production in 2020.” Track after track, she fulfills this promise with the help of striking basslines, futuristic synths and dreamlike strings.
The single choices have been excellent so far. As mentioned before, the energetic disco bliss of “Don’t Start Now” never gets old. The ‘80s influence of “Physical,” paying a little homage to Olivia Newton-John’s workout classic, proved Lipa as one to watch when it comes to visuals. Much like the transitions between different-colored rooms in the video for “Say My Name” by Destiny’s Child, Lipa follows the same format, but in a dance floor set-up. Side note: Watching this video will make you want to bring back those colored jeans from 2011.
The latest single, “Break My Heart,” samples INXS’s “Need You Tonight” and depicts the feeling of being of being too scared be happy in a relationship as she sings “Am I falling in love with the one that could break my heart?” The song is more laid back than the previous two singles, but it is still catchy nonetheless.
But let’s be real, a lot of the album tracks could be singles and develop into neat visuals.
“Cool,” co-written with Tove Lo, is the perfect summertime song and shows Lipa slightly departing from her usual husky tone as shown through the Prince-inspired vocal hiccups in the chorus. “Pretty Please” shines in its groovy bassline and even has spurts of cowbell sounds, which is always a plus. “Hallucinate” sounds like you’re in the middle of a final boss stage in a video game with its euphoric high energy.
Lipa closes out with the lyrically poignant “Boys Will Be Boys.” The only ballad on the album alludes to situations women go through that men don’t typically worry about, including the fear of walking alone at night and being underestimated in general. Outside of the dance-pop records she’s primarily known for, this closing note shows her potential as not only a songwriter, but an outspoken artist.
Switching out the moody, “in my feels” pop that’s been dominating the landscape in recent years for the plain-old fun we desperately need, “Future Nostalgia” offers us a spring 2020 at home edition of Studio 54.
We must take her advice and do as she says in “Physical,” which is to “keep on dancing.”
Rylee Jackson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @rybyjackson.