It may have taken some time for Dua Lipa to launch her debut, self-titled, album back in 2017, but it was surely worth the wait. Before there was “New Rules”, she released a bunch of solid pop songs, that just didn’t hit it off the same way globally, which resulted in delaying the albums’ release. I am talking about “Be the One”, “Hotter Than Hell” and “Blow Your Mind”. But “New Rules” really was a game-changer for pop music and pop culture overall. Apart from being her first top 10 single in the US, which is particularly hard to achieve these days if you are a female pop star that’s not Ariana Grande or Taylor Swift, the video passed 2 billion views on YouTube and paved the way for Dua Lipa’s international success.
“Future Nostalgia” is a concept album, almost like the second coming of Madonna’s “Confessions On A Dance Floor”. It avoids all the problems the debut had (although it was a decent pop record), such as lack of consistency in sound and having some filler tracks, and also proves that not every artist suffers from “the curse of the second album”. On the contrary, this album which is primarily disco-pop is a perfect piece of mainstream art and probably the most coherent album we had a chance to hear from any pop singer in years.
As she continues to elaborate the topic of a shitty ex and overcoming heartbreak, Dua sings in her lead single: “Don’t show up, Don’t come out, Don’t Start caring about me now”, again empowering us during the healing process as well as setting whole another list of rules, as well as lifting our spirits during these COVID-19 quarantine days. “Don’t Start Now” was a sleeper hit in the US, but it eventually peaked at #2, becoming her highest-charting single in the States, and is still in the top 10 in the UK, almost 6 months after its release, which is very unusual for their charts.
The album opener, and the title track, “Future Nostalgia” could somewhat be described as Daft Punk meets Prince. It’s a great introduction to what is about to follow. Stuart Price, who produced Madonna’s “Confessions”, Kylie’s “Aphrodite” and Scissor Sisters’ “Night Work” is responsible for albums highlights “Levitate”, “Hallucinating”, “Love Again” and “Cool”. Each one of these songs deserves a single treatment and in this particular order.
Dua also managed to have all three of her singles in the top 10 during the album’s release week. “Physical”, possibly a gay and workout anthem of this summer (if the gyms reopen) peaked a spot lower than “Don’t Start Now”, at #3, while third single (second in the US), “Break My Heart” debuted at #6. This whole charting situation happened only two times in UK chart history, with Ariana Grande being the first one to have her first three singles off one album charting in the top 10 simultaneously. But what is more fascinating is the fact that Dua’s singles are just refusing to die, as I assume will be the fate of this album as a whole. And I could not complain about that.
While there are no real ballads on this record, there is a couple of “slower” songs, such as “Love Again”, another Price’s masterpiece. The album’s last two tracks “Good in Bed” and “Boys Will be Boys” are good closers since they serve as a cool off after this intense dance journey that won’t let you stop dancing for a moment. “Boys Will Be Boys” is probably not the song you’d expect to hear on this kind of a record, and is probably the most serious song on the album, openly exploring the problem of sexual harassment – “It’s second nature to walk home before the sun goes down / And put your keys between your knuckles when there are boys around”, and also the way girls are forced to mature faster than boys – “Boys will be boys/The girls will be women,”.
As we are all hoping to enjoy at least part of this year’s summer, I can assure you – you will hear songs from “Future Nostalgia” everywhere and am pretty confident Dua will grab a couple of Grammys next year. Whether you like dance/disco-pop or not, the album is certainly a great refreshment for this homogenized urban-pop scene full of worn out and dated sounds. If you love 80’s pop, this record will rank pretty high on your year-end list. But be prepared, Deluxe version with more songs is coming. It may or may not include some of the demos that leaked along with the album on March 20th. As it was the case with her debut, one thing is for sure – the album will have incredible longevity, a lot of singles and a highly anticipated, but now postponed world tour to follow. Even though the lyrics on “Future Nostalgia” suggest – “I know you ain’t used to a female alpha”, we surely are, because the next pop star that tries to dominate the world charts will have to step up their game significantly.