“I know you’re dying trying to figure me out,” Dua Lipa sings on her new album Future Nostalgia’s title track. She’s not wrong: While her self-titled, 2017 debut established her as a smoky-voiced purveyor of easily digestible Top 40 hits, it lacked a sense of who Lipa actually was alongside her big personality peers. Her versatility outweighed almost everything else that could set her apart.
Three years later, the “female alpha” as she deems herself on the title track, is living up to her words. Future Nostalgia is a breathtakingly fun, cohesive and ambitious attempt to find a place for disco in 2020. Incredibly, Lipa is successful: the upbeat album that she decided to release a week earlier than planned is the perfect balm for a stressful time.
“Future Nostalgia” is like a neon “Welcome” sign. Its camp, Daft Punk-ian robot funk accents silly full of nonsensical but smartly delivered one-liners like “I can’t teach your man how to wear his pants.” The album’s lead single “Don’t Start Now” has become a mega-hit for a good reason: its the type of big, Robyn-esque break-up dance-pop anthem that every pop star is due to attempt at least once. Lipa’s special sauce is a well-played mix of disco strings and funk bass in the vein of Chic and Donna Summer.
“Hallucinate” is gorgeous, house-inflected euphoria that’s due for some club remixes ASAP, while “Physical” is a high-octane, Olivia Newton-John-referencing slice of Eighties synth-noir in the style of classic like “Sunglasses at Night.” On “Break My Heart,” she samples INXS’ “Need You Tonight” to bewitching effect.
Future Nostalgia only fails when it sounds too tied to the pop trends of 2020: “Cool” and “Boys Will Be Boys” lack the rest of the album’s warmth and oomph. “Cool” also has the bad luck of being sandwiched between “Don’t Start Now” and “Physical,” two of Lipa’s best songs.
At its best, the 24-year-old’s latest can make you feel like you’re nuzzled away in some corner of the Studio 54 dance floor, ogling the likes of Bianca Jagger and Cher under the glimmering lights. Thankfully, Lipa’s loving nod to disco feels also perfect for right now. Commence your self-isolation dance party immediately.