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‘Future Nostalgia’ continues the cliched trend of ‘80s-inspired pop, with Dua Lipa’s confidence front and center

‘Future Nostalgia’ continues the cliched trend of ‘80s-inspired pop, with Dua Lipa’s confidence front and center

‘Future Nostalgia’ continues the cliched trend of ‘80s-inspired pop, with Dua Lipa’s confidence front and center
April 15
13:00 2020

Pop music can be a slippery slope, as a lot of the time it can present itself as merely a product. This product has been met with disdain by the contrarians of the past and with applause by the mainstream music audience. It has been a leading factor of the argument that not all music can be art, but it is. No matter how processed it may sound at times or ingenuine its themes seem, it is still art.

A lot of music, no matter the genre, is built upon pop structure. A verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus structure has been a staple for the last 80 years of songwriting. This structure can be turned on its head or twisted in ways where it can become unrecognizable, but many artists still keep pop at their core. There’s a reason why many pop artists have become zeitgeists for their generation, and it’s not just because of popularity. Sometimes, music is just meant to be fun and relatable to a wide audience.

Dua Lipa has touted herself as one of the newer zeitgeists of our generation, exploding onto the scene in 2017 with her smash hit single, “New Rules,” a song about staying true to yourself in the wake of a toxic hookup-based relationship. There was no better single to speak to the young adults of the 2010s, with an electrifying beat and a list of what not to do when you get that booty call.

Lipa earned a Best New Artist award at the 2019 Grammys for her efforts. Not bad for a British-born teen model who spent most of her childhood in Kosovo, a partially-recognized state in Southeast Europe. Deep down, she always wanted to be a singer, always looking for a route to claim her fame. She would hostess restaurants and nightclubs prior to these modeling gigs to fuel her music sessions, while also posting covers to YouTube.

It’s safe to say her story played out well, and her traction has not slowed down in the slightest since 2017. Lipa has returned with her sophomore effort, “Future Nostalgia,” an album that lives up to its title in some ways but has some head-scratching tendencies in others.

“Future Nostalgia” finds Lipa embracing the ‘80s pop that has been a staple in the genre for decades. She wears her influences like she wears her heart on her sleeves, while also embracing the new decade of pop. These influences include Madonna, Blondie, Gwen Stefani and even OutKast.

Album opener, “Future Nostalgia,” plays into the theme of Lipa being the zeitgeist that her sales and popularity prove.

“You want a timeless song, I want to change the game,” she claims in the opening lyrics. She’s on a mission and swagger speaks for itself. “No matter what you do, I’m gonna get it without ya. I know you ain’t used to a female alpha,” she teases in the chorus.

There are so many tracks on “Future Nostalgia” that find Lipa in a new form of confidence. She has never sounded this sure of herself before, playing off scenarios of hopeless love and juxtaposing them with anthems that scream individuality.

“Cool” is a swift and enlightened love song with synthesizer riffs that get in your head like an earworm. It also finds Lipa utilizing her upper range, with vocal squeaks reminiscent of Michael Jackson and, sadly, many other indie singers who might try a little too hard to sound emotional. Regardless, the song maintains its wonderful immediacy.

Other tracks like “Levitating” and “Break My Heart” play off of the self-aware bangers that defined Lipa’s sound at the inception of her career. They provide perfect pop production that would do well on any dance floor. They will become staples at concerts and clubs for a couple of years, with “Levitating” providing a pop hook for the ages and “Break My Heart” with its wiggling, stuttering bass and vocal lines.

Not every track can be a winner, as there are some major flaws in the sequencing. “Physical,” while it sounds great, is dreadfully annoying and redundant. Its chorus plays off the Olivia Newton-John sound of the ‘80s that would do well in an exercise video and the themes are banal. “Good in Bed” might be the worst song of Lipa’s career and a repugnant choice for the penultimate track. Its chorus hook could make anyone bad in bed, playing off of these cliched chromatics that simply become grating.

The track list does have a secret weapon in “Don’t Start Now,” a perfect pop song that completely defines the album and Lipa’s career thus far. Its popping bassline and sense of urgency make for a pop experience for the ages. Lipa’s lyrics about neglecting her ex who wants her back stand as a rallying cry for anyone in the same position, past or present. All these elements come together in the final chorus and outro to signify a victory lap for Lipa, and it works so well.

Aside from Lipa’s frontal confidence, the album’s main appeal lies in its production, which is spectacular. The songs benefit greatly from the slick basslines, funky guitar work and monstrous synths that reveal themselves through every track. Each track feels like it has its own identity, even if it doesn’t work out for the best at times.

The importance of Dua Lipa cannot be understated. While she might not be pushing pop boundaries in the same way Charli XCX, Robyn and Lady Gaga have, she maintains pop music should remain fun and smooth. You can’t run from pop because pop will always find you. Sometimes, it’s okay to just let go and have fun.

Final rating: 3.5/5

Featured image: Courtesy Billboard

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Nick Lawrence

Nick Lawrence

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