Anyone who was familiar with Dua Lipa’s debut album knows she can make a great pop song. With hits like ‘Hotter than Hell’, ‘Blow My Mind (MWAH)’ and the now iconic ‘New Rules’, Lipa’s debut was an album of great pop bangers. But while it’s often easy to create an album full of great pop songs, it’s much harder to create a great pop album. Now a two-time Grammy winner with numerous international hits under her belt, Lipa has proven she is no one-hit wonder, and with her sophomore record, Future Nostalgia, Lipa makes creating a great pop album look easy.
Across the record’s eleven tracks, Lipa unleashes a blend of female empowerment, fierce break-up anthems and pure, unadulterated fun all dressed up in slinky basslines, heart-racing drumbeats and a gorgeous boogie nights aesthetic.
As per the album’s lead single ‘Don’t Start Now’, Lipa’s confidence and sense of direction as an artist does a “full 180” from the artist behind 2017’s Dua Lipa. Here, the album’s vision is streamlined and immaculately realised, as she shimmies and shakes through different eras, providing a near-perfect study of what truly made pop music so great.
Although the current pandemic isn’t the ideal environment in which to release an album, Lipa sees the opportunity as one to inspire joy and happiness in a time where neither in large supply. From the joyous handclaps of ‘Levitating’ to the adrenaline rush of the feverish strings of ‘Love Again’, Lipa delivers, providing a record that makes it impossible not to dance away your worries, even if it’s just for a half an hour.
Living up to its title, Future Nostalgia pays its due heavily the women who paved the way for artists like Lipa. On the album’s second single, ‘Physical’, Lipa nods to the Olivia Newton-John’s ground-breaking 1981 hit of the same name. While Newton-John feared the sexual nature of her song would damage her career, Dua Lipa luckily does not have to have the same fears, ferociously commanding what she wants on the track.
Elsewhere, Lipa pays homage to the women of the 2000s. ‘Good in Bed’ is a cheeky, funk-pop track that, with lyrics like “good pipe in the moonlight’ and bubblegum “POP!” sound effects, could have easily found its way onto records like Lily Allen’s Alright, Still or Fergie’s The Dutchess. ‘Hallucinate’ dips into the pounding house and dance-pop of club icons like Kylie Minogue or Cascada. The record is a perfect tribute, acknowledging the work done by the women that came before her, and driving that same work forward into modern times.
Lipa is also unafraid to get political here as well. Besides the cocky references to a “female alpha” on the album’s title track, the album closes on a much more serious note. ‘Boys will be Boys’ is a rousing number against the struggle of the everyday women. Backed by classical strings and a female choir, Lipa puts it plain and simple: “It’s second nature to walk home before the sun goes down/ And put your keys between your knuckles when there’s boys around.” As the chorus swells, she plays with the classic phrase, asserting “boys will be boys/ But girls will be women.” It’s a wonderful closing track, blending the gorgeous sonic landscape of the LP with a strong important message that just happens to be as catchy as any other song.
There is so much that sets this record truly apart. The masterful revival of mainstream disco, the modern attitude, the perfect blend of both, its hard to say what is the true star of this record. But, between the throwbacks and fast-forwards, the only reason this album works is because of Lipa. Future Nostalgia is shimmery, glittery and fun pop record that lifts sounds of our past into our futures, without ever losing itself. As she sings on the record’s opening line, “You want a timeless song, I wanna change the game”. To put it simply, she does both. Flawlessly.