Future Nostalgia: Timeless twists on vintage sounds

Dua Lipa first came on our radars in 2017 with 17 tracks of dance-pop on her self-titled debut, though it was only “New Rules” that announced her entrance. The album was true pop but her husky register was the only thing particularly new about it; Dua Lipa, marked by a clear exploration of sounds, was a standard debut: a star-in-the-making searching for her own voice through sound. Though a fun listen, Dua Lipa played it safe, not allowing anyone to get to know who the artist behind the title really was just yet. 

But the potential was there. Lipa was the world’s sultriest blank slate who, at the very least, had proved she could pull off “New Rules”. With the announcement of a new album, something great had to be in the works. But, even by the opening seconds of Future Nostalgia, it’s clear that Lipa has firmly cemented her place in the pop world with new rules for anyone who dares to come after her. “You want a timeless song, I wanna change the game,” are the opening lyrics to the album; as the rest of the 11 tracks unfold, it’s clear that she may have done just that. 

“Physical”, the 80s-infused second single off the album, was the perfect hint of what to expect. Future Nostalgia puts a disco spin on contemporary pop, uniting the musical styles of the last three decades to bring something new to the forefront. Future Nostalgia wears its influences on its sleeve, riddled with hints of Minogue and No Doubt-era Stefani, but it’s more of a love letter to these songstresses than a cheap copy. Lipa has molded the music she loves into a sound that’s uniquely hers. 

Frequent plucky basslines are the anchor of an album brimming with playful synths and flirty lyrics. Lipa’s signature deep voice grounds all of it, adding a dose of stern confidence. As a complete package, the album plays like the soundtrack to a Zumba class in the best way possible. 

It’s hard to pick a standout on an album where one song feeds into the next, making Future Nostalgia cohesive both sonically and in quality. There are only differences in mood, with Future Nostalgia offering a honeymoon track for each dreamy moment of a love story: “Hallucinate”, a clear club banger, is swift and unhesitating, painted with shades of Lady Gaga. The fast-paced love song is bubbly and dizzying, staying true to its title. “Levitating”, on the other hand, is more self-assured than “Hallucinate”’s shakiness. The electrifying song is a disco moment infused with a Scary Spice edge, although its chink in the armor is the playful lyrics: “You want me, I want you, baby, my sugar boo,” Lipa sings, a dance hall chorus of high-energy voices later joining in,  “my love is like a rocket, watch it blast off.” 

“Boys Will Be Boys”, the album’s final track, ends Future Nostalgia on a low note, however. “Boys Will Be Boys” is a baroque-inspired female empowerment track, heavily featuring a variety of strings and an angelic choir. Musically, it has no place on Future Nostalgia, loosening the sound that was tight for the past 10 tracks. The lyrics tackle sexual harassment and double standards, with Lipa coming to the chorus conclusion: “boys will be boys, but girls will be women.” Although an important message, “Boys Will Be Boys” feels lyrically immature to the point of downplaying its purpose: “I know that there will be a man around to save the day and that was sarcasm, if you need it mansplained,” she sings. The bridge latches onto the chorus with an attempt at a triumph: “if you’re offended by this song, you’re clearly doing something wrong.” Lipa did not carry this track with as much grace as the prior ones and the inability to tie it into the rest of the album on a sonic level makes it a misstep. Ending the album on “Boys Will Be Boys” is an anticlimactic miss. 

Future Nostalgia has an overall bravado to it, a swagger not even brought down by Lipa’s lighthearted, oft coquettish lyrics. Her electrifying new twists on vintage sounds as well as her overall boldness make Lipa one to watch and Future Nostalgia full of timeless tracks.

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