Dua Lipa and the irrepressible spirit of ‘Future Nostalgia’

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Add to playlist: The first nine tracks​​​​​​​

Score: 9/10

Dua Lipa’s sophomore album is short, sweet and full of character. 

Pop nerds like myself have long been thirsty for the next Imperial Phase. Something akin to The Fame Monster or Teenage Dream – that elusive milestone in a popstar’s career when their relevance, radio/streaming support and artistic output peak at exactly the same time. 

Every single is a classic. The visuals are cohesive and iconic. And when the overexposure inevitably prompts a public backlash, that’s when you know you’ve made it. 

Dua Lipa has been promising a blockbuster era for sophomore album Future Nostalgia since last November, when she unveiled her fresh, noughties-infused look and sound with a neo-disco ditty called ‘Don’t Start Now’. Of course, just as the powers that be dangle a campaign with legend-making potential in front of us, they also drop a worldwide pandemic. 

Surprisingly, despite promo opportunities drying up, and the likes of Lady Gaga and Alicia Keys postponing their summer projects, Dua brought her April 3rd release date a week forward. An early leak may have forced Warner Records’ hand, but nonetheless, the campaign unfolded in a way that honours the album’s irrepressible spirit. Coronavirus be damned. 

This stubborn commitment also applies to Future Nostalgia as a body of work. As the evocative title suggests, a lot of effort has gone into deconstructing your favourite dance-pop guilty pleasures from 1998–2005 and splicing them together with slick, contemporary grooves. 

Think ‘Starlight’ by The Supermen Lovers. Or Moloko. Or anyone of Britain’s own doomed successors to Kylie’s throne (Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Rachel Stevens, Lisa Scott-Lee). If that sounds like a scrapheap to you, in Dua’s hands, it’s a goldmine of squelchy basslines, shuffling disco beats and jubilant melodies. 

My favourite thing about Future Nostalgia is how each song pursues a different extreme. ‘Cool’ is the most eighties. ‘Pretty Please’ is the most titillating. The title track is the most batshit insane. You might not always be in the mood for the most Lily Allen (‘Good In Bed’) or capital-F Feminist (‘Boys Will Be Boys’). But see how you feel in a decade. Nostalgia is a powerful thing.

‘Physical’ by Dua Lipa is a barnstorming full-body workout

What’s the opposite of the ‘sophomore slump’? Dua Lipa’s upcoming LP Future Nostalgia is shaping up to be the perfect example. 

Following the techno-disco throwback ‘Don’t Start Now’ – which only broke the Top 10 in America this week – new single ‘Physical’ is a barnstorming full-body workout. 

Whereas that first single made an asset of Dua’s cool ‘resting bitch face’ of a vocal, here the singer registers as cool because she utterly lacks composure. 

‘Physical’ is pure 80s-diva cheese, shoulder-padded for the gods. The bellowing chorus riffs on Bonnie Tyler’s ‘Holding Out For A Hero’, while an ABBA-esque synth arpeggio effortlessly drills itself in your skull. 

It’s rare and refreshing to hear a modern popstar surrender their heart and/or dignity to something as unabashedly Camp™ as this. But if fortune favours the bold, then ‘Physical’ should only continue Dua’s winning streak.

Watch Dua Lipa dance like she ain’t got a choice in the ‘Physical’ video:

Dua Lipa pulls off a techno-disco throwback on ‘Don’t Start Now’

Sporting a simplistic techno bassline and swirling strings, Dua Lipa’s new single is a mean disco throwback.

Dua Lipa’s singing technique is the vocal equivalent of resting bitch face. This icy detachment has been utilised to chart-topping effect on several occasions, most notably on the Calvin Harris collab ‘One Kiss’ – the ubiquitous popularity of which is best summed up by this video of football fans chanting the chorus:

‘Don’t Start Now’ is a similarly club-ready throbber, but it’s nowhere near as comically apathetic. ‘New Rules’ producer Ian Kirkpatrick demonstrates zero chill in trying to cultivate a sassy disco throwback in the vein of  ‘I Will Survive’ – falling back on swirling strings and even appropriating a famous line from the Gloria Gaynor classic. 

Despite whiffs of desperation, ‘Don’t Start Now’ is stabilised by Dua’s cool and aloof presence. The 24-year-old strikes her usual standoffish pose, yet there’s an emotional conviction bubbling underneath the fairly innocuous lyrics. It’s a deadly combo that suggests the breakout star is only getting started.

Watch Dua Lipa flit between dull-looking parties in the ‘Don’t Start Now’ video below: