Dua Lipa offers up high-octane pop bliss on Future Nostalgia
Dua Lipa's ascent from YouTube sensation to pop powerhouse was one of the 2010s' more refreshing stories. Her throaty alto and no-nonsense attitude gave extra bite to big-beat tracks like dating manifesto "New Rules" and the teasing "Blow Your Mind (Mwah)." Lipa's second album builds on that promise in thrilling ways. For the most part, the songs on Future Nostalgia manage to live up to the record's title — their insistent hooks and impeccable construction make them as well-suited to viral dance crazes as they are for spins around the roller disco.
Take "Don't Start Now," which has had one of its intro lines — "did a full one eiiiight-y," Lipa sings over a percolating bass — reappropriated as a way for TikTok users to portray themselves flipping the script on outfits, political issues, or other aspects of their lives. While it's a fairly arresting opening, the bulk of the song doesn't rest on that hook, instead using Lipa's can-do vocal and a bop-along bassline to highlight its lyrical themes of post-breakup rebirth. On the electro-tinged title track, Lipa declares herself a "female alpha" who has her sights set on changing the game, and the sparkling "Cool," the skeletal "Pretty Please," and the stardust-dipped "Hallucinate" bear out those claims; she's not singing in 12-tone, but the songs, which she worked on with a variety of producers and writers, are full of sticky-sweet choruses and party-ready beats, with Lipa's commanding attitude tying them all together into an exhilarating whole.
Elsewhere, hits from decades past are reinterpreted in exciting ways, with Lipa resisting the urge to let familiarity do the heavy lifting. "Physical" borrows its central cry from Olivia Newton-John's 1981 aerobics anthem, although it abandons the neon-bright synths of its predecessor for a sultry vibe that's more apropos for the wee-hours partying she seeks. "Love Again" turns the British trad jazz cut "My Woman" — the hook of synth-pop scientist White Town's alt-era hit "Your Woman" — into the backbone for a disco strut, its swooning strings adding an emotional edge to Lipa's proclamations of rediscovered love. And "Break My Heart" builds on the jittery rhythms of INXS' smash "Need You Tonight" with bouncing-ball bass, handclaps, and an all-in vocal.
Future Nostalgia falters near its end — "Good In Bed" tries to meld the jauntiness of early Lily Allen with the "hey!" interjections of Carly Rae Jepsen's E•MO•TION and the wordless vocalizing of vintage Gaga, a mix that never quite gels, while the anti-misogyny lament "Boys Will Be Boys" muddles its message with gloppy strings and shout-along choirs. But even with these lapses, the album offers up high-octane pop bliss. Lipa quickly established herself as one of pop's most compelling presences during her quick rise, and Future Nostalgia shows that she's going to be sticking around its upper echelons for a while. A-