This article was originally published on Popjuice.
Let’s be clear about one thing: Dua Lipa was poised to be a pop star from the very start. Showing up with songs like Be The One, Hotter Than Hell and Blow Your Mind (Mwah), Lipa displayed a penchant for big choruses and huge hooks. It was clear that she stood out in a sea of electronic music that favoured soulless bass drops. Then, who could forget her viral moment in 2017 with New Rules, the crown jewel of her self-titled debut? The song became inescapable on summer playlists everywhere that year.
Three years on, the singer is back with her follow-up effort: Future Nostalgia. Kicking off the new era with disco-tinged Don’t Start Now and a blonde new ‘do, Lipa established a clear sound for her second album from the get-go, inspired by the likes of Gwen Stefani, Madonna and Blondie.
The result: a largely consistent collection of eleven tracks, packed to the brim with rapturous moments. Future Nostalgia is the light at the end of the tunnel for a singer once struggling to establish her place in pop.
Her intentions are made clear with the opening title track, where she sings about being a “female alpha”. It’s a kind of braggadocio that also shows up elsewhere on the album. Cool, the first of the new tracks that we’re introduced to, is a bouncy Tove Lo co-write that sees her reach into her sultry lower register. Then comes Physical, a pulsating, workout playlist-ready song that interpolates Olivia Newton-John’s song of the same name.
Where the album shines most is in moments when Lipa lets herself go to have fun. Standout tracks Levitating and Hallucinate do this while embodying the album’s namesake. The groovy Levitating is dressed with strings, vocoder verses and distinctively on-trend trap beats. Hallucinate, on the other hand, plays like a modern take on Madonna’s discography.
Pretty Please has Julia Michaels written all over it, a flirtatious funk number that offers a break from the dancefloor. Then come Love Again and new single Break My Heart to keep the disco party going. “I should have stayed at home, cuz now there ain’t no letting you go,” she quips on the latter. It wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine this song getting seized by the TikTok-wielding kids in quarantine.
If there were to be a slip-up on Future Nostalgia, it would be in the form of album closer Boys Will Be Boys, a ballad calling out gender differences that sounds out of place after a non-stop run of ten high energy tracks.
Despite being marred by an album leak that influenced its release, Future Nostalgia remains a stellar sophomore effort that’s unafraid to hustle to the beat of its own drum. After multiple twists and turns, Dua Lipa has finally found, and more importantly, cemented her sound in the echelons of nu-disco. And while her invitation for us to take it to the dance floor may well be a distant reality for now, one can bet then when the fog is lifted, we’ll be dancing to this for a long time to come.
Feature image by Hugo Comte