by Jacob Wingate-Bishop
No, a Dua Lipa album isn’t my normal sort of record. Perhaps it doesn’t fit among the usual Dire Straits reviews and Bon Jovi top ten’s. But I’m wise enough to admit when there are exceptions to my music taste. If it sounds good, it sounds good – that’s all that should matter. And Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia, released in 2020, is a deliciously dancefloor mix of pop and disco, echoing both past and present.
Future Nostalgia, Lipa’s second release, is a heartfelt ode to the ‘80s, featuring more than a few Nile Rodgers-esque licks and dance-pop choruses. One of its tracks, ‘Love Again’ – a standout moment on the record – uses the same looped trumpet sample as White Town’s 1990 hit, ‘Your Woman’ (sourced from Lew Stone‘s ‘My Woman, released years earlier). And it sounds sublime, even in the roaring 2020s.
The whole record is a pretty solid selection of dance-pop classics, but its numbers like ‘Physical’ and ‘Hallucinate’ which really offer up the best a performer like Dua Lipa has to offer. Dark, moody groovers that sound as good on the car radio as they do on the dancefloor.
And yet, we haven’t yet mentioned the two biggest songs off the album – the chart behemoths of ‘Don’t Start Now’ and ‘Levitating’. With lavish, polished homages to the retro era, and enough club-fuelled hysteria to rival a shattering glitterball, both anthems are testaments, once more, to the enduring sound of this artist – a sound that owes as much to the past as it does the present, and almost certainly the future. Future Nostalgia will remain a pop favourite for years to come.
In that regard, Future Nostalgia feels like the INXS’ Kick of its day – fitting, then, that another of its tracks, ‘Break My Heart’, was criticized on release for sounding remarkably similar in melody to the Aussie rockers’ ‘Need You Tonight’. Whether this was deliberate or not, it shows that Lipa’s track has a certified addictive rhythm, and one which solidifies it’s home as a mainstream classic.
And it is worth nothing that Dua Lipa has faced her fair share of controversy, particularly revolving around how a lot of the tracks on this album echo songs that have come before. Has she or her co-songwriters ever outright plagiarised another artist’s work? I don’t know, I’m not the expert, nor do I hold a law degree – but some of the comparisons drawn are suspiciously similar, I have to admit.
But perhaps that’s to be expected. After all, Future Nostalgia thrives on the simplistic – the lowdown, no-nonsense disco licks of late ‘70s and early ‘80s; the halcyon years of pop that would roll on in perpetual, repetitive bliss. Many of the songs on this record, though submerged in the glamour and the neon, are very simple at their core.
But to surmise that Future Nostalgia is exactly that; revved-up dance numbers from the 1980s repackaged for the modern day, ‘retro’ market, would be doing Lipa and all involved a disservice. The album soars into uncharted waters when it needs to, as in its closer, the ambitious ‘Boys Will Be Boys’. Whilst the message is not exactly new – echoing the age-old truth that women’s lives are ruled by the male kind who refuse to grow up or take accountability for their actions – it’s still deeply resonant. Perhaps now more than ever.
And the track itself is like nothing else on the rest of the album, instead building into a grand, choral incantation of the female species, damning men and all the fear and abuse they’ve exacted over the years. The first time I heard this, I got goosebumps. The lyrics are a little on the nose at points, but it’s a climactic ending, and one which doesn’t dilute the dancefloor rhythms of the ten tracks which preceded it.
Love her or loathe her, Dua Lipa is an unstoppable force in the world of music, and her third release is almost certain to turn heads and fill nightclubs all over again. Future Nostalgia, though thoroughly in the pop chart world, manages to remain, somehow, both nostalgic and effortlessly in vogue. It holds eleven tracks which straddle the man-made boundaries of ‘decade genre’, and instead blur the lines until you have one hell of a shimmering, disco-lit cocktail. And we just can’t get enough.