Dua Lipa - Future Nostalgia
Mar 27, 2020 (updated Mar 30, 2020)
88
For an artist with 50+ million monthly listeners on Spotify, Dua Lipa flew under my radar up until late last year. When a song like "Don't Start Now" drops, though, my attention was had. It's easily one of the most fun pop songs of the last few years, a slick mix of 80's and 90's dance/disco and modern pop sensibilities, all tied together with a cool and collected Dua guiding you through. It raised a lot of people's eyebrows, mine included, and subsequent singles only served to raise expectations for the forthcoming record. I'm more than happy to report that that record, the sublime Future Nostalgia, more than lives up to the hype. It's an immensely fun pop record that hardly lets up, delivering throwback-worshiping (and interpolating) songs you'll be hard pressed to not enjoy.

First and foremost, this album just sounds fun. The marriage of 80's-esque disco hits, 90's club music, and modern pop rhythms calls back to the electropop craze of the early 2010's, and this record would've been a highlight at that craze's peak. Take the opener, "Future Nostalgia". It's glitzy enough to appeal to crowds in a mall, while danceable enough to be endlessly remixed in a late night club. The record toes the line that many great songs of the 80's and 90's did, and almost all songs could function in both places. Be it the uber slick "Don't Start Now", the dancefloor ready "Hallucinate" or the pop bliss of "Levitating", these songs will make you get up and move. Not only do these songs reference and worship the 80's and 90's, some songs interpolate elements of classic songs. "Physical" obviously riffs from Olivia Newton-John's "Physical", but even past the lyrics it borrows, the song has a silly, almost urgent sense to it that great 80's MTV songs would have. "Break My Heart" turns INXS into a modern pop masterpiece with a chorus worthy of any era. No matter where you go on Future Nostalgia, you're going to find a supremely slick, danceable, and most of all, fun beat.

Beyond the great sound of the whole record, Dua Lipa really establishes herself as one of the premiere voices of pure pop music for the decade to come. Her debut showed potential but was mostly bland, palatable music with similarly boring performances. Dua has more bite, more spunk, and more personality all the way through Future Nostalgia. Beyond delivering these effortless singalong choruses, she bends her ways to fit the style of each song. The more wistful "Pretty Please" and "Love Again" require a more subtle approach to singing, and Dua is up to the task. Those two songs also grow as they go along, and so does Lipa's voice. The sound of those two songs might be slower than the rest of FN, but thanks to Dua's voice, they slide into the tracklist with ease.

With all of these elements working in unison, Future Nostalgia flows like a smooth river stream. Songs happen quickly, helping the party continue with little break. That is, until the closing track. "Boys Will Be Boys" might have its heart in the right place, and I do like the baroque arrangement, but the writing level has downgraded to that of a sixth grader. It's a overly ridiculous, off putting ending, and my only major complaint about an otherwise pristine pop record. I kind of wish that "Don't Start Now" was the opener, because my gut tells me it would work better as a start, but that's a minor issue that doesn't detract anything.

By the end of the year, I think you're going to have a hard time finding a pop record that's as much fun as Future Nostalgia. Start to (almost) finish, it bangs, it pops, and it generates a lot of future excitement for the music Dua Lipa will make. Take your seat next to Billie and Charli, Dua, because you deserve that spot.

Standouts: Future Nostalgia, Don't Start Now, Cool, Physical, Levitating, Pretty Please, Hallucinate, Love Again, Break My Heart, Good in Bed
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