Album review: Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia

John Preston

So confident and proud of the music that she has made, Dua Lipa refused to delay the release of her second album, Future Nostalgia, because of Covid-19 and the impact this will have on artists promoting their work in the conventional, expected way.

The power of music and the strength of fandom should never be underestimated. This record will become the best kind of distraction during an unprecedented time where anxiety, fear and, yes, tedium, dominate.

As suggested in its title, Future Nostalgia takes a longing glance back at dance music and tries to reassemble it into something befitting of a more contemporary mood. Lipa is staunch in her manifesto of disco hedonism and heartbreak and the whole record plays like a one-night suite at a club with the one ballad appearing at the evening’s end.

With her 2017 debut Dua Lipa made all the right noises – R&B, reggaeton, EDM – to dominate playlists and generate high sales, her voice was strident, seductive and persuasive and she became on the most streamed artists ever.

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The decision to make a follow-up that ignored all of current radio’s trends and instead focused on one dominant style of music that has fallen out of favour over the last five years or so is a brave and risky decision – one that establishes Lipa as the type of artist who is less interesting in chasing the mainstream and who instead would rather dictate it.

Lipa has also expressed a desire to make music that is song-based, a return to real chorus’ and sustained dramatic build and on the likes of the taut and ultimately explosive ‘Physical’ she achieves this whilst setting a new and thrilling standard.

The majority of Future Nostalgia though is surprisingly spare funk music as opposed to faster paced, maximalist high energy and disco of the late 70s and early 80s.

‘Pretty Please’ in particular is a bass driven, mid-tempo jam that takes its time and is so full of spacious breaks and detours that it’s easy to overlook how a track that sounds so effortless has been so artfully created.

The brilliant ‘Cool’ pulls of a similar trick but with a synthetic sheen of melancholy added that is seemingly at odds with the euphoric ‘whoo!’ that is repeated towards the song’s end.

‘Hallucinate’ comes over like a lost Girls Aloud deep-cut whilst ‘Love Again’ and ‘Levitating’ take things further forward and closer towards that endlessly spinning and sparkling disco ball.

It comes as a jolt when the baroque, pop ballad ‘Boys Will Be Boys’ ends the album in a strongly worded, female awareness warning tale. Again, not an obvious choice but one that might be better suited to another album where the transition from escapism to gritty realism might be more subtle.

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This does not distract from what went before however and only reinforces that Lipa is willing to trip up occasionally instead of safely trotting out would could have easily being a very safe pop record indeed.

Future Nostalgia is of course following the lead of other female pop singers, it often comes off as a cross between Kylie Minogue’s underrated Body Language album and Madonna’s Confessions on a Dance Floor, but it does so with confidence and imagination and some great songs. You sense that Dua Lipa genuinely loves the record that she made, and she has every right to.

About John Preston

South London based music obsessive with strong opinions about most things. Doubts Madonna has another good record in her but would love more than anything to be proved wrong.