Album Review: Dua Lipa “Future Nostalgia”

Attempting to bridge the past and the future with an 80s-influenced pop album is a noble and ambitious goal that has rarely, if ever, been successfully pulled off. But if Dua Lipa has proven anything throughout her burgeoning career, it’s that she’s an unstoppable force in the music industry, and questioning her rarely ends well. After winning the title of “Best New Artist” at the 2018 Grammys, she was put under a microscope, and a high standard was set for her sophomore release. “Future Nostalgia” is a dreamy fusion of disco and pop that exceeded high expectations and is guaranteed to solidify a spot for Dua Lipa in the canon of today’s most innovative pop artists.

The title track is a cheeky ode to women who intimidate their male counterparts. Throughout the song she makes it clear that she is in control of her own narrative and refuses to take responsibility for anybody who feels threatened by her presence (“I know you’re dying trying to figure me out/My name’s on the tip of your tongue, keep running your mouth/You want the recipe but can’t handle my sound”). “Physical” is a fast-paced mashup of 80s dance pop, future pop, and pop rock that incorporates lyrics from the 1981 Olivia Newton-John single of the same name, and the 148-BPM production coupled with Dua’s powerhouse vocals embodies a sonic orgasm that will leave listeners reeling for a while.

“Hallucinate” is a prolific blend of synth pop, dance pop, and house in the styles of Madonna and Kylie Minogue. It sounds like a modern reinvention of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love,” and it’s guaranteed to be playing all over gay clubs across the globe. As the album progresses we get the stripped back slow-burners like “Pretty Please” and “Good in Bed.” “Pretty Please” is a track with a thick, seductive bassline and amplified sexual tension in lyrics in which she finds herself pining after an ex-lover, begging for reconciliation and some make up sex (‘Cause I miss ya and I need your love/When my mind is running wild/Could you help me slow it down?).

The album comes to a screeching halt on the closer, “Boys Will Be Boys,” a scathing condemnation of a culture that excuses childish and violent behavior from boys while grooming girls to mature faster than they are supposed to (“Boys will be boys/But girls will be women”). Most of the reviews I’ve seen from blogs considered this track not to suit the album because it “ruins the party.” However, while the song may not fit the album’s overall sound, I found its inclusion to be an excellent marketing strategy. Getting on a soap-box is never fun or easy, but putting a song like this at the end of a list of irresistible of pop bangers is a great way to draw listeners into the conversation surrounding toxic masculinity and sexual violence.

Reinvention is essential for any artist who wants to attain longevity in their career, and Dua Lipa is a perfect example of reinvention with a flawless execution. She was able to cultivate a new and fresh sound that allowed her to draw inspiration from the past while remaining loyal to her pop roots, and “Future Nostalgia” is the product of a musician driven by her own creative vision who chooses to set her own trends instead of following them.

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