The singer’s highly anticipated sophomore album is reinventing disco for a new decade – and we can’t get enough.
Well! What a few weeks it’s been for Dua Lipa, known affectionately to us all as Ms. Dula Peep. It feels like only yesterday that our favourite pop mainstay was teasing her return via snippets of the retro-tinged “Don’t Start Now”. It was a pinch-me moment felt across the globe, because if there’s anything the general public love more than pasta and toilet roll, it’s an homage to disco. “Don’t show up, don’t come out / Don’t start caring about me now” Lipa belts during the chart-topping track’s chorus, a post-breakup anthem which doubles as a guide on self-isolation if you read into it a little.
Through a bounty of viral memes over the last few months, she never really left us, but now she was announcing plans for her second album, a worldwide tour, and pioneering the next decade’s bleach blonde look. This was to be the beginning of her next musical era, oxymoronically titled Future Nostalgia. Enlisting the help of photographer Hugo Comte (responsible for Caroline Polachek’s captivating Pang artwork), the pair constructed a visual paradise that just about destroys the concept of time as we know it, making the past our present, and future, if that makes sense.
This perilous journey would see Lipa attract stanship from the most unlikely of listeners (looking at the “One Kiss” footie crowd and all the Twitter.com indies) and inject an old school flavour into the modern pop scene. Fast forward to now, Future Nostalgia’s arrival is imminent, having been pulled forward to this Friday following an online leak and growing concerns over the effect of the ongoing coronavirus. “I hope [the album] brings you some happiness,” Lipa told fans via Instagram Live when explaining the change, “and I hope it makes you smile, and I hope it makes you dance. I hope I make you proud.”
The first of the album’s 11 tracks, which could be found in the dictionary next to ‘all killer no filler’ is Future Nostalgia’s namesake. Introductions don’t really get better than this funky and synthetic second single. Goofy at times (“I can’t teach a man how to wear his pants”), the lyrics even include a shoutout to American architect John Lautner, providing a feelgood taster of everything else she has in store.
“Cool” immediately positions itself within the highest ranks of Lipa’s discography, up there with “Be The One” and “Blow Your Mind (Mwah)”. A serene yet twinkly synthpop masterpiece, if we were in paradise, or Black Mirror’s San Junipero, this would be the only song on Radio 1’s A-list, and we would never grow tired of it. Though it exudes a little too much joy to constitute a ballad, “Cool” nevertheless holds all its emotional pearls and tearjerking synths close to its heart, putting them all on the line for the pleasure of our ears.
The pace increases tenfold with next track “Physical”, and what a storm this created. The creeper hit is an elevation of anything and everything Lipa has released thus far, employing rhythmic flute-like synths just waiting to burst into each sonic explosion of a chorus. The insanely curated accompanying video, directed by Lope Serrano and his partner Nicolás Méndez, is an artistic feat in itself – and I’m sure Olivia Newton-John is flattered by the whole shebang.
“Levitating” is that roller disco bop that any good album has to include. It’s likely that in a few weeks’ time this track will definitely go viral on Tik Tok, with a Lipa approved dance to accompany it. Seductive slow burner, “Pretty Please”, another integral cog in the machine of a classic pop album, follows next. Though the most stripped back song on the album, don’t take this at face value, funk-filled guitars layer up the track like a Molly Goddard skirt, adding a timeless charm that grows with each listen.
In an alternate reality, “Hallucinate” is what should have been playing in that viral video of Lindsay Lohan dancing at her beach club, it has that blissful beach pop clubbiness of the best 2000’s pop; Atomic Kitten-esque in all the best ways. An echoing pre-chorus before a thudding beat drop? Check. A classic mixing of dance-pop and orchestral tidbits? Double-check. Pure pop at its most perfected. “Love Again” continues this pivot into a more classic sound, where the previously scared of love Lipa is now head over heels navigating her feelings. Goddamn, you’ve got her in love again.
“I should have stayed at home / ‘cause I was doing better alone” Lipa sings on “Break My Heart”, unable to resist the temptation of pursuing love. With the array of hits already under her belt regarding romance and all its tribulations, Lipa is somewhat an expert at this point. Though still cautious of this danger, (“Am I falling in love with the one that could break my heart?”) Lipa makes a point of tackling the subject in a more hedonistic way than before, filling us with well-needed hope and self-assurance that love isn’t all doom and gloom after all…
Pointed out by eager fans (and referenced by the icon in question during a hysterical Instagram Live), the album’s penultimate offering “Good In Bed” bares the childish and acerbic essence of Lily Allen, a boppier “Not Fair” for 2k20, should we all survive it. Lipa’s range prevails for sure, flitting between high octave whispers before sloping down into husky commands – like a quarantine nursery rhyme, it’s playful, silly, and bloody catchy.
“Boys Will Be Boys” bookends the album with an orchestral dismantling of the patriarchy. Yes, you read that correctly. With witty rhyming couplets aplenty, Lipa makes targets the regular suppressing of casualised sexism “Boys will be boys but girls will be women” she says. “That was sarcasm / in case you needed it mansplained” – I can already picture the incels squirming over that one. We can only hope she brings out a choir to really do this number justice on tour, mustering up the perfect amount of heightened drama to end an album on – only for us to delve right back into “Future Nostalgia” again and again and again. Fantastic job Ms. Peep. 5(,000,000) stars.