FUTURE NOSTALGIA / DUA LIPA
Back to the future with Dua Lipa, as she makes a stab at classic status by harking back to the past.
It may be by accident rather than design, but Dua Lipa seems to be providing the perfect soundtrack to these bizarrely anxious times. 'Physical' has already soundtracked a million Tik-Tok videos and social trends, and this album as a whole seems to be the ideal background music for the countless home spinning workouts and Joe Wicks punishments we're claiming to do. But unless she had a pretty accurate crystal pop ball, Dua Lipa has done this by (accidentally maybe) tapping into our current yearning for nostalgia.
Whether we're tuning in to re-watch Eurovision Song Contests gone by, or Tweeting to album listen-alongs, we're all craving some form of a life we once had (whilst not wanting to think too hard about the reality of what life might be like in the future.) Modern but old-fashioned, pristinely box-fresh but liberally throwing some 70's/80's/90's shapes, "Future Nostalgia" might then, be the perfect album for now.
For a start, there's 11 tracks and they're all by Dua Lipa. No 'collabs'. Nothing 'features Drake'. Ed Sheeran is nowhere to be seen. There may be a coterie of producers behind it, but this is a one woman show, no ballads, and it zips along by hitting most of its targets. It's also at pains to make its mark as an 'instant classic'. Before the advent of the ubiquitous Spotify playlist, there used to be albums that came along once a year where 40% of the tracks were proper hits everyone knew, and the rest sounded like hits in the making. The sort of record you could stick on at a party and not worry about having to skip forward through the dull bits. The last album to achieve this was probably Gaga's 'The Fame Monster'. This doesn't quite reach those heights (..what does..?) but you've got to admire the ambition.
The title track sets out this ambition from the start. "You want a timeless song" are the very first words you hear on the record. It flexes it muscles as a kind of overture, underpinned by creepy Andy Serkis-style Gollum whispers throughout. 'Don't Stop Now' follows and is a brilliant one stop shop of the albums influences, with chunky club-honed beats wrapped around a bouncing Chic-era bassline, topped with housey 90's piano chords. Impressive.
It borrows equally from different decades whilst still having its own unifying sound, although the 80's-90's just about win out. 'Physical' dresses itself up in Mad Lizzie leg warmers, 'Levitating' could be an updated Nile Rogers-era Diana Ross track, whilst the White Town-sampling 'Love Again' takes us right back to the 90's.
Not everything is a total success. The piss-taking 'Good in Bed' sounds like Bugsy Malone gone bad, and whilst 'Boys Will Be Boys' has some serious points to make about male machismo, it's slightly clumsy chorus is a bit over obvious. But the observation in the track that "the kids aren't alright" stays with you. And it's not just the kids....
Going full circle back to the title track, Dua Lipa states that "you want what now looks like." This record is very much "now". But fortunately, it gives us enough of a comfort blanket to "then".....before we have to face up to the truth of "what will be."