In a budding spring without nightclubs, windows-down car rides with friends and almost every other moment that begs for new pop music, it might feel weird to revel in “Future Nostalgia,” the electronic, disco, dance-pop album that Dua Lipa released last Friday. But Lipa’s album gives me a vivid mental image of what our post-quarantine nights will be like — and I hope you join me in that “nostalgia” for the future.
Lipa released her sophomore album one week ahead of schedule, after the album was leaked in its entirety in mid-March. In an Instagram live video, she announced the early release and, with tears in her eyes, said, “I hope it makes you smile, and I hope it makes you dance. I hope I make you proud.”
Over the last few days, “Future Nostalgia” is one of the few things that has made me smile, one of the few things that has made me dance. And, if global streaming rates tell us anything, she’s made the world proud, too.
Lipa opens the album with its titular track, a mixed tempo electronic song with funk undertones. Lipa’s talk-singing on the track introduces us to a new side of herself, a stylistic combination of Kesha and Kylie Minogue, backed by unforgettable instrumentals. “Future Nostalgia,” while not as memorable as several of the tracks that follow, is a clear-focused introduction to an album that keeps us dancing until the end.
You’ve heard the second track for months. “Don’t Start Now,” Lipa’s first single from the album, has been streamed on Spotify more than all other tracks by far, and for good reason. The track’s upbeat electro-pop beat is alluring. And, its lyrics about overcoming heartbreak and coming out of it stronger are widely relatable. This track is empowering, but it equally functions as a dance-inducing bop, and one that will likely ride out the summer, despite its early release.
I’m not in the business of ranking the songs on this album by overall quality, but “Physical” tops them all in terms of dance irresistibility. Released as a single last January, “Physical” stands out for its upbeat mixture of disco, electro and synth-pop. Its high-power 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” — encourages a range of emotions, platonic and romantic; it’s a great vibe for any night out. And, between the chorus and second verse, Lipa overlays the electronic instrumental with two of my favorite seconds from this 37-minute album: two quick breaths, a sexy, suggestive, high-energy response we all have when getting physical.
Fans of “Don’t Start Now” and “Physical” will undoubtedly also flock to “Levitating” and “Hallucinate.” “Levitating,” with its disco beat and syncopated handclaps, is a bit slowed down compared to “Physical,” but I would say it’s a more versatile track. Don’t believe me? Play both for your parents and let me know their thoughts. And, if your parents love both, let me know so I can invite them to my post-quarantine party.
In “Hallucinate,” too, Lipa delivers catchy dance-pop, especially in the buildups and choruses. This track beats the rest in the competition “most clearly inspired by Kylie Minogue” and ties with Physical for “most likely to be played at a beachside club this summer.” Its lyrics aren’t my favorite; this track is dedicated more to dancing the night away, not searching for hidden meanings.
On the topic of lyrics, some of the best come from the album’s next track, “Love Again.” One of my personal favorites, the slower dance-pop track introduces some of the heaviest disco sounds of the album, embodying the theme of nostalgia better than most tracks. This one is perfect for the car ride to the beach or lake, but has equal potential to put you in your feelings. If that scares you, at least relish the fact that you’ll be smiling and dancing at the same time.
The penultimate track, “Good in Bed,” is a fun cap to what I consider this album’s three-track narrative of desire. (Other tracks could fit this narrative, but “Love Again,” “Break My Heart” and “Good in Bed” give us a compact story by themselves). In this track, Lipa shows us her promiscuous side more than ever before. If “Physical” suggested that Lipa wants us to get physical in places other than the dance floor, “Good in Bed” tells us about as literally as possible, “Sex is great. Let’s have some!” This track is cute; when I listened the first time, I thought it was a bit corny, but that’s part of what makes it fun. And, the first line of the second verse made me spit out my drink. Dua Lipa is that girl. And I love it.
The final track of “Future Nostalgia” caught me off-guard because it doesn’t carry the energy of some of the earlier dance tracks. “Boys Will Be Boys” closes the album with a strong theme of female empowerment and a denunciation of the patriarchy, both of which are more implicit themes from the beginning of the album.
Lipa opens the track: “It's second nature to walk home before the sun goes down / And put your keys between your knuckles when there's boys around / Isn't it funny how we laugh it off to hide our fear / When there's nothing funny here?” The chorus is a repetition of “Boys will be, boys will be / Boys will be, boys will be boys / But girls will be women.” With “Boys Will Be Boys,” Lipa leaves her listeners thinking after a sweaty 37-minute dance party.
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For now, we might not be able to celebrate Dua Lipa’s brilliant new album with our friends or at a club. But while we’re dancing in the comfort of our homes, not knowing when we’ll be able to celebrate the album properly, one thing seems clear: Dua Lipa is a powerful and unique voice in pop today. Thankfully for us, she’s not going anywhere.