Dua Lipa’s ‘Future Nostalgia’ is a timeless pop triumph

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Grade: 4.5/5

Dua Lipa’s latest LP, Future Nostalgia, comes at a tumultuous time for the world. Unlike other major artists who pushed back album releases due to COVID-19, or the novel coronavirus, Lipa decided to release Future Nostalgia a week early. She wasn’t worried about having a “perfect” release — rather, she wanted to relieve listeners of the stress of current events by giving them an album to dance to in their living rooms.

And it’s hard to stop yourself from doing just that when listening to Future Nostalgia. The album is 37 minutes of well-curated, high-grade, nonstop disco pop. Lipa doesn’t include any ballads; even when she explores morose themes, like heartbreak, the songs are more bold and sanguine than ruminative or regretful. She makes it clear that there is no tangible pain on this album, only growth.

Lipa has created an unparalleled record by tapping into pop and disco influences that span several decades. She gives nods to everyone from Prince to Kylie Minogue to Donna Summer, managing to do so both subtly and effectively. It’s what makes the album’s name so apt: Through a funk bass and ’80s-inspired synths, Lipa takes listeners back as far as 40 years by using the styles of the pop and disco stars who paved the way for her. And with timely themes and clever lyrics, she does so in a way that feels right for this moment — and for the future.

The album begins with its titular track, a groovy Jeff Bhasker-produced single. Lipa shows the full extent of her confidence, making statements like, “You want the recipe, but can’t handle my sound” and referring to herself as the “female alpha.” The song is a perfect introduction: Atop classic pop synths and a buoyant beat, Lipa sings, “I wanna change the game,” and over the next several tracks, she proves that she means it.

“Future Nostalgia” is followed by “Don’t Start Now,” a single that has already spent 21 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart. “Don’t Start Now,” complete with a thick bass and catchy lyrics, perfectly embodies what it means to be a breakup song on Future Nostalgia. Rather than agonizing over the past, Lipa sings, “I’m all good already/ So moved on, it’s scary/ I’m not where you left me at all.”

Another highlight is “Levitating,” a delightful song about meeting someone and falling in love. With Daft Punk-inspired production and dozens of lyrical references to starlight and sparkles, the song perfectly captures the energetic, dreamy feelings of love at first sight.

The only moments when the album seems to veer off of its path of high-energy disco and pop fall at the end: The last two tracks, “Good In Bed” and “Boys Will Be Boys,” are not as nostalgic or exciting as the preceding songs. That isn’t to say they aren’t well-made: “Good In Bed” is a fun, Lily Allen-esque track about a relationship held together only by good sex, and “Boys Will Be Boys” is a socially relevant song about having to mature earlier as a woman, with Lipa singing, “Boys will be boys/ But girls will be women.” The songs themselves are strong, but they fit awkwardly with the rest of the album, which doesn’t end it with as much spirit as listeners may have hoped for.

Despite its minor pitfalls, Future Nostalgia is a timeless, masterfully made work of art that reaffirms Dua Lipa’s identity as a pop superstar. And while the album’s vivacious energy is obviously perfect for nightclubs, festivals and other large gatherings that are momentarily prohibited, it is also perfect for right now, offering listeners just the right amount of musical spirit and sparkle to distract from the social distance.

Contact Salem Sulaiman at [email protected].