While pop stars like Lady Gaga and Alicia Keys decided to push back the release date of their new albums because of the corona crisis, Dua Lipa decided to drop her sophomore record Future Nostalgia a week earlier. The build up to this album by Britain’s most exciting pop star was everything we could ever wish for: the singles were outstanding, the videos excellent and every single colorful outfit and photoshoot was very much on point. But does the album deliver what it promised us? Check out my track by track review!
01. Future Nostalgia
Dua Lipa opens the record with the title track she co-wrote with Jeff Bhasker and Clarence Coffee Jr. Both lyrically and in terms of sound, it introduces us to everything this record is about. “I know you’re dying trying to figure me out”, she sings as she introduces her new style influenced by disco and eighties synth pop while at the same time somehow sounding futuristic. Lipa declares herself to be a ‘female alpha’ on this bouncy, unpredictable but undeniably catchy album opener.
02. Don’t Start Now
‘Don’t Start Now’ was released as the first single from this project and proved to be a triumphant return and massive international hit. The single, co-written with Caroline Ailin, Emily Warren and Ian Kirkpatrick who also signed for the production, has a clear nu-disco sound with soaring verses and a punchy and funky chorus which wastes no time settling in your brain. The track came out almost half a year ago and proved itself to be in it for the long run as I can’t seem to grow tired of it. An absolute bop and one of last year’s best singles!
Lipa brings summer through your speakers with ‘Cool’, produced by Stuart Price and TMS and co-written by a team of songwriters including pop star Tove Lo. This mid-tempo pop tune sees Lipa exploring a raw edge of her vocals over an infectious synth pop production. The funky bass line perfectly complements the playful lyrics about losing your cool when you fall head over heels in love with someone. Definitely single material right here!
‘Physical’, released as second single, was co-written with Sarah Hudson, Jason Evigan and Clarence Coffee Jr. and produced by Evigan and KOZ. While part of Future Nostalgia has a disco vibe going on, ‘Physical’ seems rooted in the slick synth pop of the eighties. The soaring synth in the background of the chorus is a genius touch and the suspense in the verses perfectly underlines the sexual tension in the lyrics. ‘Physical’ has an arena filling sing along chorus with an irresistible hook, but does not fully depend on it. The verses are just as strong and that middle-eight in which she raises her voice to beg her lover to keep on dancing is the moment! Dua was coming for that ‘single of the year’ quite early this time.
If you thought you heard Dua at her most disco on ‘Don’t Start Now’, ‘Levitating’ is here to prove you wrong. This uplifting love song immediately takes you right into an unapologetic disco party. We hear proper seventies disco mixed with some Daft Punk-isms going on. ‘Levitating’ serves hooks for days. The chorus is instant, but the post-chorus with the ‘you can fly away with me tonight’ line, is otherworldly. As if that all wasn’t enough, we get a very British rap in the middle-eight. An absolute highlight.
06. Pretty Please
After the balls-to-the-wall approach Dua handled on ‘Physical’ and ‘Levitating’, she lets us breathe a bit on ‘Pretty Please’. The tune on which Julia Michaels co-wrote has a sparser production with a deep, funky bass and more subdued vocal work as well. The song about being needy in the early days of a relationship might not be as instant as most of the work on Future Nostalgia, but it is a little gem that shows itself a bit more with every spin. Also, it serves one of the best uses of a cow bell in contemporary pop.
We move on to the dance sound of the nineties on ‘Hallucinate’, produced by Stuart Price and SG Lewis. Lipa serves another upbeat love song with a larger than life chorus. She describes this as the song she will have to play at every festival and I can already see it become a moment with all the hands in the air when the world is finally able to celebrate again. It is just so ridiculously catchy and swings every second. This will be total party live.
08. Love Again
‘Love Again’ was written by Lipa in a difficult time, but the song sounds just as hopeful and upbeat as the rest of the record. She sings about how she thought she was not going to experience love anymore, but then she did! The strings give the track a proper disco atmosphere, while the trumpet sample also used by White Town on ‘Your Woman’ brings the finishing touch. Another incredibly catchy stand-out tune.
09. Break My Heart
‘Break My Heart’ was launched as the album’s latest single a day before the album hit stores, accompanied by another stunning music video. The track, produced by The Monsters & Strangerz and Watt, samples the hit ‘Need You Tonight’ by the band INXS. The track follows a similar structure to what ‘Don’t Start Now’ serves, with soaring and melodic verses and a punchy, yet swinging chorus. This sure fire hit is an excellent choice for next single.
10. Good In Bed
Lipa shows off her cheeky side with ‘Good In Bed’, produced by Lindgren and Take A Daytrip and co-written by a team of songwriters including Melanie Fontana. On the tongue-in-cheek track, Dua describes a relationship with a guy that doesn’t really work out, but the sex is too good to end things. In terms of sound it is more early noughties Lily Allen than anything related to disco, but it still doesn’t sound out of place on Future Nostalgia.
11. Boys Will Be Boys
For the grande finale, Lipa slows down the pace to share a ‘conversation starter about the growing pains of being a woman’. She describes how girls, including herself, make sure they are home before the sun goes down and hold keys between their knuckles in case someone attacks them, just because the violent or sexist behavior by guys is excused with the line ‘boys will be boys’. Lipa plays with this saying, singing ‘boys will be boys, but girls will be women’. A powerful statement, dressed in a vivacious melody and bombastic string arrangement. What a way to end this record!
Future Nostalgia is an early contender for record of the year. The album is a brilliant mix of contemporary pop with sounds and styles of the past decades. She co-wrote every single tune on her sophomore album, showing she grew as a songwriter as well as an artist. There is not a single filler to be found here and at least more than half of the tunes are sure fire hits. Future Nostalgia is one of the strongest sophomore records in recent pop history.