By Emily Tang and Eric Sofianopoulos (Third Year JD)
Let’s throwback to better times. The year is 2017. You turn on the radio. New Rules is playing on every station – the song of the summer. This is Dua Lipa, and this is her big break in the mainstream pop arena. Even before hitting the global pop market with New Rules, Dua Lipa was making waves in the UK pop scene with bangers like Blow Your Mind and Scared To Be Lonely (a song that reaches new levels of poignancy in these quarantine days).
Dua Lipa has recently dropped her new album Future Nostalgia. Here are some of our thoughts.
Verified Funky Fresh Tunes (if you are short on time and wanna smash out a listen of the real standouts):
- Love Again
- Don’t Start Now
- Break My Heart
Em: I think this is a very very solid album. It brings to the table a cohesive sound and is extremely well produced. On the whole it draws on past disco themes but still puts a pop/modern spin to it – it probably doesn’t hurt that I’m a sucker for a funky bass line and she leans heavily into that. I would say my main critique is that there are some songs that I think sound like kind of generic pop songs that don’t have a funky enough melody or meaning to get my gears going. I do think it’s a shame there aren’t any ballads or slow songs but I think she is intentionally leaning into the party pop vibe for this album so I can’t blame her for having a cohesive groove.
Eric: Overall I enjoyed listening to this album. I’m a huge fan of the revival of the 90s/00s pop sound (Shoutout Rina Sawayama) and I think Future Nostalgia taps into that with (mostly) great results. While I wish the album featured more performances from Dua that made use of her lower vocal range, the album has this fantastic groove that pervades through the majority of the tracklist and really helps Dua cement her own sound, something I think she struggled with in the past. That being said, I think that the production was a bit excessive at times (most notably on the chorus to Cool which I think could have benefitted from being a bit more simple), and I really wish that Dua had showcased her lower, more distinctive, vocal range a bit more throughout, as there were a few points on the album where I found her vocal performance fairly generic.
Em: I totally back Eric’s point about wishing she showcased her lower range more. As much as I love the airy Aris of the world, I think the pop game is oversaturated with high notes and runs and falsettos. Not to say it’s impossible to do the upper range well, but in my opinion Dua Lipa’s main strength is her ability to hit low notes with attitude and own it.
Em’s Track-by-Track Review (feat. Eric)
1. Future Nostalgia: Released as the lead single and was also the album title. It wasn’t my fave song tune-wise but I respect it for setting the tone of breaking into the scene and establishing the overall mood.
2. Don’t Start Now: DID A FULL 180 nah I didn’t I already loved it from the beginning but it’s somehow grown on me even more. This was released in November and it’s been on my “on repeat” ever since so that probably says enough. I love a funky bass and a SINGLE INDEPENDENT WOMAN song.
3. Cool: I don’t vibe this too much actually. Maybe my least favourite from this album. The chorus doesn’t catch me and I think it’s very similar thematically to other songs on the album like Pretty Please so to me it doesn’t do anything more.
4. Physical: An atmospheric moody vibe. Gets you moving and that’s really all you need when it’s got the title it does. In my opinion from Levitating onwards the album picks up again from the dip it ventured into with a few hiccups here and there (see below for a helpful visual). Eric reckons that after Break My Heart the standard drops but hey different horses for different courses.
5. Levitating: Has a real fun bass line so that’s something that I dig. I like the chorus on the whole, but the “sugar boo” bit in the pre-chorus doesn’t do it for me – it kind of sticks out in the listening experience and it’s a bit jarring. But I like the different intonation in the verses she’s going for and I think overall it’s a fun tune.
6. Pretty Please: Another funky bass line! It has one of the more saucier sounds which I like for the variety, like it’s not all straight up upbeat pop. I can tell it’s going to be a grower when I listen to the song more.
7. Hallucinate: A TUNE. Catchy melody, funky bass line, solid drums, amazing production. The sort of song that is going to get you moving. A JAM. Up there on my list of faves. Eric: This song and the two that follow are really where the album hits its stride for me. Fun, groovy pop that knows exactly what it is and does it well. Going to be very hard to find a better three track run on any other pop release this year.
8. Love Again: Another banger, and mostly because I am a sucker for some mild orchestral violins. I think Dua Lipa’s lower range gets my gears going (probs why I don’t vibe with Cool as much now that I think about it) so it’s one of my faves. This is probably my favourite on this album.
8. Break My Heart: Heavy drums & bass and a solid tune that I think is elevated by the music video (released a couple days ago). It reminds me a lot of Charlie Puth lol but that’s not a bad thing. I think the production is really good on this even if the lyrics aren’t amazing. But I suppose I give it bonus points for the relevancy of “I would’ve stayed at home cause I was doing better alone” in times of quarantine.
9. Good In Bed: REAL SAUCY. I respect how she doesn’t mince any words in this song. The chorus gets a little repetitive so I think if I put it on repeat I might get sick of it. But I like it for a little bit of a fun upbeat tune with the piano chords in the background. And her verses are pretty fun here. Eric: Lyrically fantastic but I really can’t get behind the pretty uninspired and cliched instrumentation, particularly right after the fantastic Break My Heart.
10. Boys Will be Boys: HERE WE GO THIS HIGHKEY FEMINISM IS A VIBE. It’s the song that is the most meaningful on the album in terms of social commentary and I love that she snuck it in there on what is otherwise already a solid pop album about love/sex. To me this adds a little bit of spice/extra something that puts it above just a standard pop album. I will say that I mostly enjoy this song for being a product of the times but I don’t think it’d be a winner on sound alone.
Eric: “Boys will be boys but girls will be women” is an absolutely amazing line and I love the message this song is trying to convey, but I don’t think that this track works well as an album closer. As Em says, Dua doesn’t really touch on social issues much throughout the album until this final track, making me feel like it was shoehorned in, and perhaps that it would have been better suited as a stand-alone track released after the album dropped.
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