Dua Lipa: Future Nostalgia (Warner) Review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Thursday, June 4th, 2020  

Dua Lipa

Future Nostalgia

Warner

Mar 27, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


It’s hard to imagine there was ever a time when Dua Lipa didn’t feel destined for superstardom. At some point between the release of the “New Rules” video and her triumphant night at the 2018 Brit Awards, Lipa’s rise seemed not only inevitable but necessary. Here was the sort of young British star we hadn’t seen for a while; one who was fashion-conscious and culturally literate yet able to generate mass adoration, capable of earning acclaim from full-blooded pop fans and begrudging respect from rock critics. 

With that in mind Future Nostalgia has arrived with heightened expectations, particularly in the UK music press—expectations Lipa has sought to provoke further. “You want a timeless song, I want to change the game,” she declares on the opening title track, before comparing her work to American architect John Lautner—you see, Lipa is not your average pop star. And yet in many ways, she is. Much of Future Nostalgia’s bravado leads to an oddly conservative record; one that seems to draw inspiration not from ’70s disco, but from the mid-2000s house update of the genre instead—think Mylo, The Shapeshifters, and Freemasons. In a time when Billie Eilish has muscled her way to the top of the charts by incorporating elements of industrial music and jazz ballads, this album feels somewhat regressive—a copy of a copy.

That is not to say there isn’t much to like about this record. Although Future Nostalgia lacks adventure, it offers consistently slick, sharply produced pop music. The big budget gloss is often enough to make up for the lack of invention. There is little to differentiate “Pretty Please” from the sort of slick pop-funk which appears every week on Spotify’s New Music Friday playlist, but its groove snaps and tugs in pleasing directions, embellished with buoyant bursts of cowbells and bright synths. 

At other times, Future Nostalgia’s reliance on imitation can be frustrating. The exuberant camp of “Hallucinate” is such a faithful impression of 2000s disco-house that it might as well have been written as radio fodder for 2004. While “Cool” sees Lipa shamelessly borrow the cadences of Charli XCX down to her breathless gasps—albeit minus the abrasive musical edges that have made her a cult icon. Two of the album’s strongest instrumentals are also marred by Lipa’s inexplicable insistence on rapping. The title track boasts one of her sharpest hooks and a glorious backing that sounds like The Time via Girls Aloud, but its verses are clunky and unconvincing. The otherwise excellent “Levitating” fairs no better. There has never been any reason to believe Lipa would be any good at rapping and while her efforts may knowingly aim for Kurtis Blow more than Kendrick Lamar, it is a bafflingly unnecessary misfire.

Nevertheless, there are enough songs here that feel as though they could generate nostalgia of their own. Two of the album’s singles—“Don’t Start Now” and “Break My Heart”—are obvious contenders. Both play to Lipa’s strengths, as fantastically sleek dance records for those who suspect they may be better off single rather than forcing love with people too immature to give or receive it. A third, the Bonnie Tyler-meets-aerobics-workout “Physical,” might also make it thanks to Lipa’s spirited vocal performance and its high-energy synth-pop instrumental. 

Future Nostalgia’s expensive sheen is impressive and for the most part satisfying—only the problematic hurts-so-good relationship drama of “Good In Bed” is a straightforward dud. Yet, it is also a disappointingly lightweight return for an artist who clearly aspires for greatness. At no point is that more noticeable than on the closer, “Boys Will Be Boys,” which opens with the album’s most pointed social commentary (“It’s second nature to walk home before the sun goes down/And put your keys between your knuckles when there’s boys around”)…only to waste it as the intro to a series of innocuous “the kids ain’t alright” slogans (“Boys will be boys/But girls will be women”). It’s one of too many moments that nod towards the possibility of a braver record before retreating to easy comfort.

By mining the music of her childhood, Lipa has established a more cohesive artistic vision than on her debut but failed to make a convincing case for her place in pop’s A-list. In terms of emotional complexity, her music lags behind Ariana Grande or Taylor Swift. In terms of sonic invention, this album is far from Beyonce or Eilish. Future Nostalgia is more analogous to the breezy retro-pop of Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic. It is an effective, and at times exceptional, pop record but while there is much nostalgia to enjoy here, there is precious little of the future. (www.dualipa.com)

Author rating: 6.5/10

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Average reader rating: 9/10



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Arketype
March 28th 2020
2:24pm

I stopped the reading when you compared Billie to Dua. Is it a professional or a personal opinion? Don’t expect pop singers are doing something simply for follow a trend. Most part of people of the current generation doesn’t tasted 70, 80 or 90’s trends. This album is a revival for celebrate the good past music style and a mix of 00, 10 and her unique voice. I’m sorry but this isn’t an album for you. It isn’t a copy of a copy. Totally disagree here from my home.

Antony LEBEAU
April 6th 2020
8:16am

Very good analysis! I will add, as it sounds very disturbing for me, that I can’t believe that Charli XCX hasn’t been committed in the creation of “Cool”... When you listen to this song, it is quite…. you REALLY hear Charli XCX singing…