Dua Lipa’s latest release, the cleverly titled Future Nostalgia, came on a wave of hype, as the Grammy winning English pop sensation has been responsible for some of the most irresistible and inescapable hits of the last three years. Predictably, Future Nostalgia not only lives up to its hype, but actually exceeds it.
On Future Nostalgia, Dua Lipa asserts her bold, assertive and unapologetic femininity in a way in a series of tough, punchy dance floor anthems bristling with clever, often biting and hilarious lyrics and complemented by dazzling production values. From the opening infectious title track, Lipa immediately establishes herself as a dominant force to be reckoned, as well as clarifies the intent behind the album’s contradictory title:
“You want a timeless song, I wanna change the game
Like modern architecture, John Lautner coming your way
I know you like this beat ’cause Jeff been doing the damn thing
You wanna turn it up loud, future nostalgia is the name.” *
If her goal was to create an album of songs that are indisputably rotted in modern times while incorporating iconic sounds and production values of the 1970s’, ’80s, and beyond, she achieves it, especially on tracks such as the dreamy “Levitating” and the lush “Love Again,” both of which sail on a caressing wave of 70s’ R&B tapestries, with the latter also incorporating the more pointed New Jack Swing beats of the early 1990s’.
Specific artists are also recalled, either consciously or consciously; the fantric, pulsating beat of “Physical” recalls the similarly suggestive pacing of ABBA’s edgy “Lay All Your On Me” and Madonna’s early classic “Burning Up,” among others. The appropriately hypnotic “Hallucinate” pays homage to The Fame era Gaga without sounding derivative, while the album’s best song, the irresistbly raunchy “Good in Bed” combines the brassiness of TLC, the lyrical bite of Lily Allen (as pointed out by other critics) and the raw, upfront sexual bravado of Lizzo, as well as echoing Prince’s similarly graphic and spiritually gratifying portrayal of sex during the days of Dirty Mind.
The album’s closer, “Boys Will Be Boys,” is a blunt condemnation against toxic masculinity as well as the idea that it’s on women to protect themselves rather than on men to behave appropriately; it’s not the first song tackle these subjects, but the song’s lyrics are laced with a formidable combo of defiance, resignation, and even humor. Its serious pedigree may seem jarring, but in reality it’s a culmination of all the non-apologetic femininity Lipa presents throughout the album, and establishes her as an artist capable of serious depth and thought and offers a great conclusion.
With its smartly constructed songs, soaring and diverse production values, and Lipa’s charismatic vocals and personality, it’s going to be very tough to top Future Nostalgia as one of, if not the, best albums of 2020. Be on the lookout come Grammys time, whenever that will be.
* Lyrics credited to