Dua Lipa’s newest album “Future Nostalgia” is a fast-paced, sexual, rhythmic masterpiece. The entrancing disco and pop beats will lodge themselves in your head with the effectiveness of an elevator tune, but with the energy of a 70s dance party. These pop disco sounds are what make up the fundamental basis of the album, and likely is what lead to the title “Future Nostalgia.” The album is nostalgic in the sense that it rejuvenates feelings that can usually only be found on a ’70s and ’80s dance floor, while bringing the past greatness of disco (and even a tad of Jazz/R&B) back to the forefront, and inspiring an almost uncontrollable urge to just dance. The “Future” part of the title lies in the hopefulness that this rejuvenated nostalgia will carry into the future and beyond.
When reviewing this album, I personally cannot help but make the nostalgic link to Tim Lawrence’s idea of “Dancefloor Democracy.” In the ’70s and ’80s, people of all colors, sexual orientations, and genders (mostly minorities) would often come together on the dance floor. Especially in a place like New York City, which at the time had the highest population of women of color, minority groups would use the dance floor as an outlet to express their individuality and yearning for freedoms that mainstream society had not yet granted them. They would dance freely, sexually, and physically, forgetting the reality of the world they lived in. While leaving reality behind, the dance floor gifted minorities with a sense of liberation that they could not attain off the dance floor, as they had to deal with constant forms of overt and covert oppression on a daily basis in normal life. This energy and sense of liberation are what embodied the idea of “Dancefloor Democracy”, and it is the same energy that makes Dua Lipa’s album so enchanting.
Filled with songs of love, heartbreak, sexuality, and expression, Lipa is not only unapologetic about who she is and what she stands for throughout, but she expresses it in such a musically masterful way that it is impossible not to notice. In some sense, Lipa’s music is to her, as the dance floor was to the masses of marginalized bodies in the ’70s and ’80s, a place of expression and freedom. The first song that comes to mind when considering this nostalgic feeling of Dancefloor Democracy-esque freedom is “Physical.” “Physical” takes any listener instantly on a rollercoaster ride fueled by adrenaline, as Lipa sprints us through her passion for love and dancing. No verse in the song expresses this uncontrollable zeal as does the chorus: “All night, I’ll riot with you/ I know you got my back and you know I got you/ So come on, come on, come on/ Let’s get physical/ Lights out, follow the noise/ Baby, keep on dancing like you ain’t got a choice/ So come on, come on, come on/ Let’s get physical.” One might hear this verse and think they were in the mind of a 70’s disco dance floor fanatic. Beforehand, we get an intense build-up with a steady disco beat, that almost seems to be preparing us for a great feeling of release. Then, the chorus hits, the volume heightens, the drums emphatically enter the beat, as if the drummer was being physically held back, itching to just let loose. And it’s that “let loose” feeling that Lipa is so brilliantly able to incorporate in her album, and in this song specifically. The physicality, the comradery, and the feeling of losing yourself to the dance floor that Lipa describes can only be felt in this album, or through the nostalgic feeling of “Dancefloor Democracy.”
Throughout her musical career, Lipa has never been afraid to express her queerness or her lack of concern with societal norms. This album only reaffirms the point, but I can’t help but draw upon some historical context to emphasize it. The sexual nature and sheer feeling of liberation of this album immediately spur memories of Lipa’s 2019 Grammy’s performance with St. Vincent. The brilliant performance put on by these two feminist icons was filled with sexual touching and flirtatious gazing between the two, and can be seen as Dua Lipa’s most outwardly public embracement of her queerness. Just like her album “Future Nostalgia,” this all-time Grammy performance is a great example of Lipa’s unapologetic embracement of both her sexuality and her queerness.
Throughout the album, Lipa also interweaves her fun non-stop dance vibe, with a powerful advocacy for female empowerment. Multiple lyrics can be drawn upon as examples of this empowerment, whether in the direct fashion of calling upon her alpha attitude, or by freely embracing her sexuality. Maybe the strongest example of this female empowerment that comes to mind, can be found in her song “Future Nostalgia.” In this funk-inspired sensation, Lipa holds nothing back, as she opens up the song expressing her ambitious aspirations of becoming a musical pioneer (though some may say she already is). “You want a timeless song, I wanna change the game/ Like modern architecture, John Lautner coming your way” (John Lautner was a revolutionary architect, for context). This song is just as sonically free-flowing and energized as the lyrics are, as Lipa’s voice perfectly plays to the electronic funk beat. Her electronic rhythm is hypnotic in this song especially, as the combination of the keyboard, the bass, and the whispery background vocals are used to formulate the pinnacle of funk rhythm. This pioneering mindset that Lipa presents in her lyrics can also be found in her unique ability to combine a multitude of genres such as funk, pop, and disco, all into one nostalgic rhythm. Later in the song, she says “I know you aint used to a female alpha,” which is just another example of Lipa presenting her bold, unapologetic attitude towards the stereotypical societal norm of submissive femininity. If it was not already clear, Lipa makes it undeniably clear how little she cares for patriarchal suppression with this line.
In embracing her sexual nature and search for love, Lipa continues her voice of female empowerment throughout the album, and very prominently, in her song “Cool.” Though this song may strike some as her most vulnerable song on the album, it is this openness to vulnerability and sexual desire that can be so empowering. “Cool,” in maintaining the spunky disco-pop theme of the album, takes us through Lipa’s surrenderance to her newly found love, as she allows it to take control of her. We see this uncontrollable feeling and her sexual nature come to life in the line, “I like us better when we’re intertwined/ The way you touch me got me losing my senses/ Put your love with your lips on mine, on mine, on mine/ You got me workin’ up an appetite.” We can find a similar sort of this pure freedom and abandoning fear of love in her song “Break My Heart,” as she says “I’ve always been the one to say the first goodbye/ Had to love and lose a hundred million times/ Had to get it wrong to know just what I like/ Now I’m fallin.” In allowing herself to be so freely vulnerable and openly sexual, she is not only presenting a source of empowerment in the present, but she is also continuing her revival of the feeling of “Dancefloor Democracy.” The ability to be so sexual and so vulnerable was a key cog to the idea of “Dancefloor Democracy,” as it was something that many minorities in the ’70s and ’80s could not express on a normal day to day basis. Once again, Lipa has managed to use a combination of her disco beat and her liberating lyrics to nostalgically revitalize the feeling of “Dancefloor Democracy.”
Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia is nothing short of a scorching bright star in a time where everyone needs a little more light in their lives. While the masses are literally stuck inside, as a fatal public threat makes its way through the country, Lipa’s album presents itself as a true getaway from the gloominess of our current reality. Those that are missing the freedom of their local dancefloor, or the energy of an electric concert, should look no further in filling this void than Lipa’s Future Nostalgia. Encompassing all the thrill, sexuality, liberation, and energy that has, in many ways, been put on pause for the sake of this pandemic, Lipa does it all and more in her most recent work of art.
“St. Vincent & Dua Lipa | Masseduction / One Kiss | 2019 GRAMMYs.” YouTube.com, 11 Feb. 2019, www.youtube.com/watch?v=9tw2LMnxvW0.
Lipa, Dua. “Dua Lipa – Physical (Official Video).” YouTube.com , 21 Jan. 2020, www.youtube.com/watch?v=9HDEHj2yzew.
Lipa, Dua. “Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia (Official Lyrics Video).” YouTube.com, 16 Dec. 2019, www.youtube.com/watch?v=8EJ-vZyBzOQ.
Lipa, Dua. Dua Lipa – Cool (Official Lyrics Video), 19 Apr. 2020, www.youtube.com/watch?v=uY8tAKDVxK8.
Lawrence , Tim. Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor, From 1980-1983. 2016.