Dua Lipa ascends to the status of pop icon in timeless sophomore album Future Nostalgia


Courtesy of Warner Music Group

Isaiah Hinton

While her debut album produced hits such as “New Rules” and “IDGAF,” Future Nostalgia incorporated old sounds of disco, funk and pop with new techniques and arrangements to create a cohesive collection of songs designed to get the audience dancing and reminiscing of past times.

Lipa herself described the motivation of this album as a fusion of style and different musical eras. “What I wanted to do with this album was to break out of my comfort zone and challenge myself to make music that felt like it could sit alongside some of my favourite classic pop songs, whilst still feeling fresh and uniquely mine,” the singer said through a press release.

Her first single off the album, “Don’t Start Now,”, sets the tone for the entire record, both lyrically and musically. Lipa’s lyrics drip with defiance as she asserts her independence and self-love by rejecting her ex-boyfriend’s attempts to get back together. 

These themes of empowerment and self-love are hallmarks seen throughout the songs of the album and work with Lipa’s maturity as an artist and a person. Musically, “Don’t Start Now” incorporates a heavy bassline that is funk-inspired. In addition, the violins near the bridge are a nod to songs from the disco era, and the presence of the rhythm guitar is similar to guitars used by duo Daft Punk is their 2013 album Random Access Memories, which is also a nod to disco in itself.

Lipa’s second single, “Physical,” which reached No. 3 on the U.K. Singles chart, combines sleek, clean production with an infectious instrumental to create a song almost begging a listeners to dance. When hearing the song, it is impossible to not think of a typical 1980’s power ballad, with the musical element of synthesizers to go with it. More than anything, this song is very fun and allows itself to be repeated without fear of annoyance. 

The final single, “Break Your Heart,” was released a few days before the album itself. The song shows Lipa finding empowerment through vulnerability, how anxiety about a new relationship is proof of how much one cares about it and, how invested they are. “Break Your Heart” does a fantastic job at contrasting the light, disco-infused instrumental with the potentially heavy content of the lyrics. Sampling “Need You Tonight” by INXS, “Break Your Heart” had the goal of helping the listener dance through pain, and it was a home run of an effort.

This album is chocked full of 1980s vibes, with the titular track providing a synth-pop element with some subtle allusions to “Robot Rock” from Daft Punk, in the way that a robotic voice proclaims the word “future.” Lipa’s lyrics are againdipped with defiance in this opening track, proclaiming herself to be a “female alpha.” Another song with 1980s influence is “Cool,” which is heavy on the synthesizer to create a fun, exuberant song echoing the sentiments of Lipa, who is reveling in the honeymoon stage of a new romance. 

The middle of the album includes three songs with three different sounds. “Levitating” has a bassline that is almost akin to rubber and includes the closest attempt on this album to Lipa rapping. As the song goes on, especially near the bridge, it takes on a sound similar to 1990s Brit pop, especially the Spice Girls and how their lyrics elicited a reaction from the audience. It stands out musically from the majority of the album, but it works. 

“Pretty Please” is stripped down, heavy on a funky bassline propelled by bass guitar and drums and is very Charlie Puth-esque. Finally, “Hallucinate” is a festival song, meant to be played at concerts. The sound is reminiscent of Madonna, especially her efforts in the late 1990s-early 2000s. 

All three songs deal with love and its effects, mainly its ability to be empowering and happiness-inducing. 

Another deep cut from the album, “Love Again,”, finds Lipa exploring the idea of finding what she wants after a breakup and allowing herself to be with someone else. Musically, the trumpets in the beginning are a brilliant touch, as they not only remind the listener of Roaring Twenties’ music and its subtle  decadence, but they propel the song forward as a dance track. 

“Good in Bed” also shows Lipa in an empowering position, recognizing the end of a relationship that is proving to be toxic outside of sex. It is unapologetically blunt and incorporates funk and disco in a way that creates cohesion with the rest of the album. 

The final song “Boys Will Be Boys,”, explores the struggles of not only Lipa, but all women, as they grow up in a society that forces a level of uncertainty on them that their male counterparts do not have. Lyrically, Lipa pulls no punches and it connects to the rest of the album thematically by highlighting female empowerment and self-love. Musically, however, it does not connect to the rest of the album, as it shifts to a more stripped-down sound that is driven by traditionally classical instruments of violin and piano.

Future Nostalgia is a triumph of production and ideas, and Lipa creates an infectious sound in all her songs by combining disco and funk with modern elements of pop. All the songs from the album have the potential to be singles in their own right, which can explain how Lipa and her album set the single-day record for most streams in the United States and United Kingdom by a British female. 

However, in a time where global uncertainty, fear and anxiety reigns supreme, having an album that is fun and energetic is a welcome distraction from the outside. With Future Nostalgia, Lipa has established herself as a dominant force in pop for years to come.