Lee Williscroft-Ferris sits down and listens to Future Nostalgia, the sophomore studio album by Dua Lipa.
On paper, Dua Lipa should not be the phenomenal pop powerhouse she has become. It was only after a run of relatively poorly performing singles that the 24-year-old hit the big time with number 1 smash hit, ‘New Rules’, in 2017. Released a month after her eponymous debut album, the insanely catchy track and accompanying viral video catapulted Lipa into the limelight.
What she has achieved since is indeed a rare feat; instead of falling victim to the curse of the one-hit wonder, Lipa has honed her sound and image and crafted a sophomore album that exceeds expectations and sees her truly take flight as an artist with her own unique vision of what pop music should – and can – sound like in 2020.
Future Nostalgia does precisely what it says in the tin. There is a joyous retro vibe running through the album like a thread, combining shimmering 1980s synth with beats at times reminiscent of 70s disco. The potential pitfall of such an approach is a descent into a pastiche of a bygone era, a mere tribute to past frivolities with little contemporary resonance. Lipa masterfully leaps these hurdles, somehow succeeding in creating a marvellously coherent set of outstanding tracks that feel eminently radio-friendly, relevant to 2020 and beyond.
Most refreshingly, Future Nostalgia avoids falling victim to the perennial curse of the sophomore album, i.e. trying too hard. The album is, if anything, far more unrestrained and way less conveyor belt-esque than its predecessor, which sought to showcase Lipa as an ‘all-round’ commercial pop package with mixed results. The overriding vibe on her second record is one of an artist unafraid to tread her own path, strike out in a whole new direction and, well, just have fun. When Lipa sings ‘You got me losing all my cool’, it’s without regret.
‘Hallucinate’, a high-energy, mid-album floor-filler, could be straight from Madonna’s Confessions on a Dance Floor and is a sure-fire future single. Pre-album single ‘Physical’ is another highlight with its irresistible hook and infectious chorus, while ‘Break My Heart’ seamlessly blends first class production with a perfectly concocted guitar riff and lyrical whimsy (‘Oh no, I was doing better alone / But when you said ‘hello’, I knew that was the end of it all’). Oh, and an INXS sample. What’s not to love about that?
‘Love Again’ is like a précis of the wider album. The heavy sample from White Town’s 1997 hit single, ‘Your Woman’, segues effortlessly into a string-backed seventies-inspired motif – further proof of Lipa’s instinct for experimenting with a variety of influences and distilling them into something precious and unique.
Vocally, Dua Lipa may not be in the same league as many of her contemporaries; indeed, her range is rarely challenged on Future Nostalgia. Instead, she remains in her comfort zone, her deep timbre underpinning the album’s smooth stylings. But it doesn’t matter. The relaxed vocal delivery only serves to further enhance the album’s overall impact.
Future Nostalgia is Dua Lipa shaking off the shackles of expectation, cutting loose and giving us an album that resonates with personality and playfulness while never compromising on production values. This is Dua Lipa serving up her 2020 vision and we are here for it.
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