Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia is an 11-track album that touches on independence, heartbreak, love, and confidence. Dua Lipa is an English singer/songwriter who started her professional life as a model before signing with Warner Music Group in 2015. Her debut album topped the charts in 2017 with its pop anthems and dance tracks and landed herself a recognized name in the music industry. Lipa was born in London and attended the Sylvia Young Theatre School part time. She moved back to her father’s home in Kosovo in Southeast Europe where she became a big fan of hip-hop artists who would eventually inspire her own music. At the age of 15, she moved back to London with aspirations of becoming a singer, and she worked several jobs to help herself pay for music lessons. For one of those jobs, Lipa modeled for ASOS Marketplace, but she quit after one of her managers told her she needed to lose weight. Afterwards, Dua Lipa began to pursue her music career, and from there, her stardom was born. Lipa uses her past and the people who didn’t believe in her to produce the self-determined, confident, and all-powerful lyrics in this album.
The lead single of the album, “Don’t Start Now,” was an instant introduction into the pop DJ aspect of her production. The appeal to the song is its catchiness, and from that, it instantly became a popular hit in clubs, compelling those listening to dance. I can tell you myself, I’ve danced with my friends to this pop hit on several occasions. This track, like many others on her album, provides an accompaniment of electric guitar, bass, and drums. The use of these instruments amplifies the upbeat, pop sounds that are present throughout the album and contribute to the happy, dancy vibe of the music.
After the dropping of a few singles, Dua Lipa released the full album Future Nostalgia on March 27, 2020, a week before she had originally planned, due to it being leaked, and right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. She promoted the release of her album through Instagram Live, given the circumstances of the pandemic, and an article from Billboard quotes her statement: “Make of it what you will; I hope it brings you some happiness and I hope it makes you smile and I hope it makes you dance–and I hope I make you proud.” This shows the type of artist Dua is: she is someone who makes her music for the people to enjoy and love. During a time of fear, sadness, and loneliness, Dua Lipa uses the self-empowering lyrics and upbeat sounds of her album to uplift the people who listen to her music, inspire them to be strong, and encourage them to feel something.
This album is a consistent vibe of upbeat, pop music that takes one back to 80s and 90s typical pop music, giving a similar feeling to albums by Madonna, Gwen Stefani, and Olivia Newton-John. Lipa’s song “Physical” reminds me a lot of Oliva Newton-John’s classic with the same title. I think she does this because artists like Olivia Newton-John are the people who inspired her to pursue music in the first place and having a similarity to them in such a way allows for her to share that connection. The song is full of DJ-esque beats and a steady drumming that almost makes me want to bounce. She sings “baby, keep on dancing like you ain’t got a choice/so come on, come on, come on/let’s get physical,” which directly relates to Newton-John’s famous pop anthem. Inspired by powerful women in the music industry, Dua Lipa’s album professes a strong attitude of bold feminism and shines a new light on female power and sexuality. She portrays a sense of physicality and pruriency in her songs “Pretty Please” and “Good in Bed.” With lyrics like “put my mind at ease/pretty please/I need your hands on me/sweet relief/pretty please,” Lipa reconstructs the vision that a woman should be proper and not openly desire sexual pleasure. She continues to stomp out the double standard of who “gets to be sexual” with “Good In Bed” and the lyrics “I know it’s really bad, bad, bad, bad/but baby, that’s what makes us good in bed.” In this song, she shares the story of a toxic relationship emotionally but a passionate one physically. The parts of the chorus where she describes that they make each other mad is accompanied by a hard beat and strong vocals whereas when she says that they are good in bed, the music calms down and her voice becomes softer.
Dua Lipa sings about the struggles of heartbreak and moving forward in her song “Love Again.” Instead of another typical sappy ballad about being sad and never being able to feel love again, Lipa transforms heartbreak into an exciting pop single. The song begins with a slow arrangement of string instruments but quickly moves into a pop/techno anthem, showing that it is possible to overcome heartbreak. “Never have I ever met somebody like you/used to be afraid of love and what it might do/but goddamn, you got me in love again” are lyrics Lipa uses to show the strength of a woman and her self-determination. “Break My Heart” continues to show Dua Lipa’s outlook on love and changing the way that females are thought of in a relationship: overly emotional and unable to handle challenges. Her lyrics “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” portrays her ability to be resilient in love and not settling for anything less than she deserves.
The song on Dua Lipa’s album that I think speaks the most truth and turns the most tables is “Boys Will Be Boys.” This entire song tells the story of the dangerous nonsense that the phrase and idea of boys being boys is. Lipa shares the everyday fears that women have to undergo: “It’s second nature to walk home before the sun goes down/and put your keys between your knuckles when there’s boys around.” I can personally say that I have done both of these things often in my everyday life and hearing it spoken by someone of Dua Lipa’s popularity and status reminds me that it happens to everyone. The chorus repeats the phrase “boys will be, boys will be/boys will be, boys will be boys/but girls will be women.” What this chorus says to me is that boys have the freedom and ability to make mistakes, to be rowdy, and to act childishly, but girls have to hold their heads high and act maturely, especially when around boys. This song highlights the fact that this type of thinking is common and is everywhere with her lyrics “oh, and they do what they see/’cause it’s all on TV/oh, the kids ain’t alright.” Ann Cvetkovich’s An Archive of Feelings talks about trauma, depression, and feminism. The quote “trauma puts pressure on conventional forms of documentation, representation, and commemoration, [gives] rise to a new genre of expression” exemplifies what Dua Lipa dictates and describes in the song “Boys Will Be Boys” (7). The trauma that women have to go through every day, having to look over their shoulder and calculate their every move, changes the way that women express themselves and what they’ve gone through. An Archive of Feelings depicts the way that music and lyrics can form the way an individual interprets their own feeling and emotions, which is something that this album does for me. Using music as a platform to highlight significant cultural problems is a form of expression that reaches large masses of people and will hopefully spark a conversation.
Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia is an iconic pop album that stretches the preconceptions of love and life as a woman and encourages self-determination, courage, and joy through upbeat music and story-telling lyrics.