By Aisha Sembhi
The past half-decade has seen Dua Lipa slowly but surely build a pop culture empire like no other. Her self-titled debut album saw nine singles released over a three-year period, culminating with her first UK number-one ‘New Rules’ in 2017, allowing for a build-up of momentum behind the new face of pop music. Given her impressive portfolio, Lipa was certainly under pressure to match the success of her debut. Three years later, with the release of Future Nostalgia, she has certainly exceeded expectations.
It’s in the name – Future Nostalgia introduces a new generation of listeners to the versatility of 80s funk and disco, whilst capitalising on the potential for innovation within the contemporary pop movement. The titular track perfectly embodies the theme of the album – Lipa is unapologetically asserting her place in dance history as ‘the female alpha’, succeeding where other female pop artists have often struggled. The album goes beyond the overplayed trope of ‘girl power’ and performative feminism, and instead celebrates autonomy, sex positivity and confidence in an assertive yet entertaining manner.
Though the album is an overall triumph, certain tracks flawlessly sew together the flashy essence of the 80s and the appeal of present day dance-pop, and are therefore able to stand out among the rest. Physical, borrowing it’s lyrical hook from the 80s hit of the same name by Olivia Newton-Johnson, is perhaps the most impressive track on the album, demonstrating Lipa’s command as an artist in an intense piece that provokes both a sense of urgency and excitability.
In a similar way, Break My Heart samples INXS’s Need You Tonight. The decision to reinvent these classics gives listeners the opportunity to enjoy the musical zeitgeist of a previous generation in a manner that aligns with modern trends. Regardless of personal subjectivity, I’m sure Lipa’s artistic method will be well received by even the harshest of critics.
Other distinctively impressive tracks include ‘Love Again’, a revitalising hidden gem with the unfortunate circumstance of being sandwiched between two of the most high-energy songs on the album, and therefore at risk of being overlooked. And of course, ‘Good In Bed’, a playful and almost humorous piece that will certainly be a fan favourite. It is through these tracks Lipa proves simplicity is key to succeeding in the world of pop – there is no need for a complex lyrical pattern or vocal breakthrough. Music that is able to simultaneously feel effortless yet memorable is what prevails, and this is where Lipa prospers.
For the most part, the album can only be described as a high-energy party soundtrack. The house-inspired tracks ‘Levitating‘ and ‘Hallucinate’ feel almost transcendent, and will certainly become victim to club remixes sooner or later. Even the more leisurely pieces, namely ‘Pretty Please’, are built upon feelings of confidence and self-determination, complementing the positive energy projected throughout the entire collection.
The album is, however, not without its shortcomings. Lipa’s previous success on the charts has been credited to her ability to innovate pop as a genre – perhaps this is why the album’s finale, ‘Boys Will Be Boys’, falls short. The sombre anthem condemns difference in behavioural expectations between young men and women in an unexpectedly formal manner, unfortunately feeling at odds with an otherwise totally dance-inducing album. Whilst the song makes an undeniably significant statement, its inclusion on the album feels like Lipa’s first predictable move, bringing the listening experience to an abrupt halt.
Regardless of these minor faults, Dua Lipa’s second studio album is an unprecedented and undeniable musical achievement. Future Nostalgia is no landmark accomplishment in song writing or statement-making, but it doesn’t need to be – it finds its greatness in its celebration of both sentiment and modernity. What makes the album so exceptional is its potential to reintroduce those who have become disillusioned with chart music to the pop scene. If her first album was not enough to secure her place in musical history as one of the pioneers of a revised dance movement, Future Nostalgia will certainly do so.
Image: Dua Lipa By Harald Krichel via Wikimedia Commons