Dua Lipa Ascends to Disco-Pop Dominance with ‘Future Nostalgia’
After releasing the powerhouse #1 ‘Don’t Start Now’ in November, following with three new singles, and encountering some controversial leaks, Dua Lipa’s second studio album, ‘Future Nostalgia,’ was released by Warner Records on Friday, March 27.
And less than a week after release, the album has risen to the top five on streaming services, and has received widespread acclaim, scoring four stars on Rolling Stone, A- on Entertainment Weekly, and averaging a year-best 8.8/10 on music aggregate “Metacritic.”
There are no strong musical parallels between the pop star’s new sophomore album and her first self-titled studio album, released nearly three years ago in June 2017. She noted in several publications, including Rolling Stone that, “I wanted to break out of my comfort zone and challenge myself to make music that felt like it could sit alongside some of my favorite classic pop songs, whilst still feeling fresh and uniquely mine.”
When appearing on Capital FM (U.K.) on album release day, she noted, “the reason why I made this record was to get away from any anxiety or any pressures of making a second album,” also adding, “I made [Future Nostalgia] with so much love and I had so much fun making it—making it with my friends.”
Lipa collaborated with several prominent producers, including Stephen “Koz” Kozmeniuk, Ian Kirkpatrick, Stuart Price, and Jeff Bhasker. Lipa also encapsulated several key figures from the 80s, 90s and early 2000s to help fine-tune the album’s sound, notably the co-producer of Disco legends ‘Chic,’ Nile Rodgers. There were even rumors of a collab track with the two, but that never made it into the album.
It has become a rarity that albums are catered to flow in-order from start to end, with streaming and playlists cherry-picking personal favorites. But ‘Future Nostalgia’ flows masterfully from the album-titled first track, through the end, with a unique and powerful sound in every single song.
The song “Future Nostalgia” sets the tone with a late-70’s funky bass guitar segueing into a disco-infused electro-synth chorus and powerful lyrics in sing-speaking, asserting one of the album themes of feminism: “I know you ain’t a female alpha.”
The title track then flows into the worldwide smash hit, “Don’t Start Now,” continuing with the disco, Studio 54-esque, synth-heavy theme of what Lipa calls ‘dance crying’ that has already yielded one smash.
What may be a dark horse smash hit is what follows, with “Cool.” The tempo slows, and the song starts with a powerful warped sync lead. The melody creates a hazy atmosphere with a ray of light across the room, where Lipa opens up. And her vocal range in this song is unlike what many have heard before from Lipa. The lyrics about love and desperation also help her achieve this range.
“Physical” is still on the rise in Top-40, becoming the perfect successor to “Don’t Start Now” on the radio. Lipa’s lyrics nod to Olivia Newton-John’s legendary “(Let’s Get) Physical,” while instilling a powerful dark synth, burning a crazy-fast, electric rhythm that makes me want to get out of my seat, and carrying the album’s disco-pop feel.
The warbled synth loop makes another strong appearance in “Levitating,” with R&B stylings and shades of The Spice Girls in the chorus. The song also reminds me of Bruno Mars’ “Moonshine” from his 5x-Platinum album ‘Doo-Wops and Hooligans.’
“Hallucinate” feels like a view straight into the late 90s, with shades of Madonna’s ‘Ray of Light.’ The fast-paced and airy feel with the dominant bass synth and catchy lyrics and vocals makes this song another serious smash hit contender (common theme across most of these songs!).
“Love Again” takes the listener back into the 80s with clever strings and acoustic guitars melding together in harmony, with the drums kicking in by the chorus that becomes foot-tapping fun.
The same goes for “Break My Heart,” which is in my opinion the early frontrunner for Song of the Year. The bass guitar may have sounded familiar, and that is because Lipa sampled the riff from INXS’ 1986 hit “Need You Tonight.” Usually, the original is always better than the sequel. In this case, I might argue the new variant sounds insane. Lipa’s ‘dance crying’ mojo with powerful lyrics and disco-pop synths make this the most-perfect song blend that I can remember in years. This song, along with “Don’t Start Now” and “Physical,” are easy smash hits on the radio come summertime.
And it is no doubt that ‘Future Nostalgia’ is the pop album the Top-40 radio world has been craving for several years. With more crossovers in the playlist, combined with constantly-imitated trap rhythm (i.e. Billie Eilish, Travis Scott) and a general mellow, down-tempo vibe (i.e. Khalid, Post Malone), there have been very few songs that infuse ‘life’ and energy that Top-40/Pop radio has delivered in years past.
Lipa’s album is due to have the same smash-hit impact that previous disco-pop albums had, flying high with the likes of Lady GaGa’s ‘The Fame’ in 2008 and Taylor Swift’s ‘1989’ in 2014.
‘Future Nostalgia’ is available on all major streaming platforms, including Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, and Amazon Prime Music. The album is also available on CD, vinyl (pink, yellow, or blue) and cassette tape (golden!), for those who want to indulge in a true disco experience.
‘Future Nostalgia’ has cemented Dua Lipa’s status as one of the best pop artists of the decade, and the album will no doubt be in the Album of the Year conversation.