Chart Beat

Five Burning Questions: Dua Lipa Debuts in the Top 5 With Her 'Future Nostalgia' Album

Dua Lipa
Kwaku Alston

Dua Lipa photographed at Clive Davis' Pre-Grammy Gala at The Beverly Hilton on Feb. 9, 2019 in Beverly Hills.

While other artists have pushed their album release dates back to a (hopefully) less turbulent time in the cultural landscape, pop star Dua Lipa instead pushed up Future Nostalgia to last week -- and was rewarded with her best week yet on the Billboard 200 albums chart.

Future Nostalgia debuts at No. 4 on the chart (with 66,000 in first-week album equivalent units) this week -- which might not quite match the level of enthusiasm the album has generated among pop fans, but still easily represents her highest ranking to date, following the No. 27 peak of her 2017 self-titled debut. In addition to that top 5 debut, the set's newest official single "Break My Heart" debuts at No. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100, while lead single "Don't Start Now" holds at No. 3 on the chart, having previously climbed to No. 2.

Will "Break My Heart" follow "Don't Start Now" to ubiquity? And what kind of Future Nostalgia do we anticipate for Spring 2020? Billboard staffers debate this questions and more below.

1. So No. 4, 66K first week -- given the anticipation for Future Nostalgia and the success of lead single "Don't Start Now," how happy should Dua Lipa be about those numbers on a scale from 1-10?

Gab Ginsberg: At least an 8. Back in 2017, her debut album debuted at No. 86 with 8,000 equivalent album units sold, so this is a development that speaks to her massive career growth. She also beat Pearl Jam -- a band that’s been around for over three decades -- by 3,000 units. I will say that I’d reserve a 10 on the happiness scale for a No. 1 debut, and on a quieter week, Lipa may have even gotten that coveted spot -- but never say never, especially with a deluxe edition on the way!

Lyndsey Havens: I mean, she should be 10/10 happy -- she released an incredible, funk-filled, dance-ready album full of heartbreak bangers. Though I personally thought and wished for Future Nostalgia to nab a No. 1 debut on the Billboard 200, I'll settle for top 5. It's also important to remember the climate and surrounding factors in which Dua released her sophomore project; she moved its drop date up a week instead of delaying due to the coronavirus, but meanwhile, overall album consumption units were down 12.3% the week ending March 19. We'll never know how high Future Nostalgia may have debuted had life been "normal" right now, but fortunately for us Dua isn't going anywhere -- and will surely debut atop the chart later in her career.

Jason Lipshutz: I’d say about a 4. A No. 4 debut on the Billboard 200 chart is a big boost from a No. 27 debut -- yet with all the hype surrounding the album and the huge success of “Don’t Start Now,” Lipa could have reasonably expected a stronger start, and even eyed the six-figure range. Chalk this final number up to Lipa not quite being known as an “album artist” yet, even though she just made an excellent one. The further she progresses in her career, the more fans will want to peruse her full-length statements instead of just soak in what’s on the radio or on playlists.

Andrew Unterberger: I'll say 6. For a pop artist on her second album that hasn't historically been a streaming powerhouse, 66k and No. 4 is a pretty respectable showing -- especially compared to other highly anticipated full-length releases from the acclaimed pop likes of Carly Rae Jepsen and Charli XCX that debuted outside the top 10. Dua's squarely in the mainstream now, and if her momentum continues trending in the right direction, she should contend for No. 1 with her next album.

Xander Zellner: About an 8. To put this week’s debut in perspective, her first album never logged a week with more than 15k, so this is an enormous leap from that, and a sure sign of brighter things to come. But coming off the massive success of “Don’t Start Now” and her pair of wins at the 2019 Grammys (including best new artist!) it’s hard to not have hoped for a No. 1, especially when the album is as strong as it is. In order to have achieved that, though, Future Nostalgia would’ve had to double its units (and then some, as After Hours earned 138k this week), so perhaps that’s asking for a little too much. But she certainly has the pop prowess and the fandom that warrants a No. 1, so it’s only a matter of time.

2. Future Nostalgia's "Break My Heart" debuts at No. 21 on the Hot 100 this week -- what kind of chance do you think it has of following "Don't Start Now" to the top 10?  

Gab Ginsberg: I think it’s got a good shot. "Break My Heart" is up 37-21 on Pop Songs as the chart's Greatest Gainer, and it’ll only continue to win over radio listeners who are starved for something to dance to during these trying times. Actually, that describes the whole Future Nostalgia album.

Lyndsey Havens: If I keep streaming it as often as I have been (which I will), I can see it landing in the top 10, if not the top 5. I believe we're officially in the waiting period where most of the major anticipated releases that were supposed to arrive in the coming weeks are not. If that means it allows Dua an opening to climb as high as she can on the Hot 100, that's quite the silver lining in my book.

Jason Lipshutz: As I’ve played Future Nostalgia in its entirety while at home over the past week-and-a-half, I’ve noticed that, even though there are songs I personally enjoy more than “Break My Heart” (shout-out to “Hallucinate” and “Levitating”), that INXS-interpolating hook is one of the most immediate on the project and gives the album a back-half highlight. I could see “Break My Heart” burrowing into our brains and slowly climbing into the top 10.

Andrew Unterberger: Yeah, I'm optimistic. Considering no other song from the album (besides previous singles "Don't Start Now" and "Physical") even made the Hot 100 this week, and considering the song doesn't even show up on Future Nostalgia until track nine, No. 21 is a pretty resounding start for "Break My Heart" -- a combination, no doubt, of New Music Friday playlist placement and early radio excitement. The streams may dip in the short-term, but will likely rebound as radio picks up. I wouldn't be surprised if it ultimately becomes one of the biggest pop hits of the social distancing era.

Xander Zellner:  Not out of the question -- it’s a great song! -- although I’m partial to “Levitating” and “Love Again.” “Break My Heart” gets a nice start at pop radio this week though, jumping from No. 37 to No. 21, which should help kick it into high-gear. Plus, with the near-universal acclaim Future Nostalgia has received so far, it can only help it climb higher.

3. Dua Lipa's bop credentials are fairly well established at this point, but was there anything she does well on Future Nostalgia that you found surprising? 

Gab Ginsberg: It’s all killer, no filler -- a beautifully comprehensive album where every chorus is as big as possible, and sometimes the post-chorus is even more spectacular. I love most of Lipa’s debut album, but a few songs drag for me, whereas she’s batting a thousand here.

Lyndsey Havens: Can you do confidence well? Well, Dua does. I'm not entirely surprised by it, but incredibly pleased by the result. She brings the vocals on tracks like "Cool" and "Hallucinate," and elsewhere is entirely comfortable being vulnerable -- which is, of course, easier when that vulnerability is veiled by bright disco-pop production, best heard on singles "Don't Start Now" and "Break My Heart."

Jason Lipshutz: “Good In Bed” is the type of wink-heavy sex song that could have been cringeworthy if it had been less fully developed, but Lipa treats the track as the bit of devilish fun that had been previously missing from her discography. I’m not surprised that Lipa could pull off the cheeky delivery of that “good pipe in the moonlight” line, but flirting with an R rating can be a tricky needle for a mainstream pop star to thread, and she does so admirably.

Andrew Unterberger: At some point I will get used to Dua Lipa referencing "good pipe." That point has yet to come.

Xander Zellner: I love that she leans strictly into upbeat disco-pop throughout the album: no real lulls or slow songs. Whereas Dua Lipa felt a little crowded, with Lipa introducing us to her pop-singing chops, Nostalgia feels much more organized -- almost as if everything about the album was planned out in advance. Also the White Town sample on “Love Again” was a pleasant surprise that worked seamlessly.

4. Future Nostalgia has received virtually unanimous critical acclaim, easily the year's highest-rated pop release on Metacritic thusfar. Do you think it's actually the best pop album we've received in 2020 so far -- and if not, who else you got?

Gab Ginsberg: Whoa, we can’t forget about Selena Gomez’s Rare, which is one of my favorites so far this year. It maybe even takes the gold, which means the silver medal goes to Lipa (though she’s forever in first place for those vocals). But there’s room for all of the pop greats! Keep ‘em coming!

Lyndsey Havens: Honestly, it's hard to remember what 2020 was before this pandemic. Did Halsey, Selena Gomez, Meghan Trainor and Kesha all really release albums this year?! While I still love the Kesha album, as well as a handful of Halsey and Meghan singles, I think Selena and Dua are pretty tied in terms of "best" pop album so far this year. Dua's definitely goes harder overall, but Selena's power pop ballad ("Lose You To Love Me") will always hold a place in my heart.

Jason Lipshutz: Despite some stiff competition from Selena Gomez and 5 Seconds of Summer, Lipa has the pop project to beat in 2020 so far, as Future Nostalgia benefits from its crisp, 37-minute run time an doesn’t really have any missteps across its 11 songs. There have been multiple pop projects with exhilarating highs released this year, yet Future Nostalgia comes out on top for its lack of lows.

Andrew Unterberger: Another huge honorable mention to 5 Seconds of Summer here, as the opening run to Calm beats out any other pop album of the year so far for me. The Weeknd also released maybe the best album of his pop era just a week ago with After Hours, so that's certainly in the mix as well. And gotta give a shoutout to Georgia's Seeking Thrills, which isn't playing at the commercial level of these other names mentioned, but certainly has the singles to contend with any of 'em. But Future Nostalgia maintains a little better throughout than any of these other sets, so I've got it as the leader in the clubhouse four months into the 2020 pop schedule.

Xander Zellner: In terms of purely pop albums, Future Nostalgia is unquestionably the best so far. After Hours, Beach Bunny’s Honeymoon and even Soccer Mommy’s Color Theory are some of the year’s best pop-leaning albums, but in terms of textbook pop music, nothing has come close to Future Nostalgia so far.

5. Three-plus months into the 2020s, separating the music from the context of our current real-world situation -- if indeed, such a thing is even possible -- do you think we'll be feeling future nostalgia for this mini-period of pop music history? 

Gab Ginsberg: Welllll, nostalgia requires a longing for the past, right? Personally, I’ll still be in the depths of Spotify’s “Fans Also Like” feature, searching for pop gems to keep me going long after the Top 10 resets.

Lyndsey Havens: It's just not possible to separate the music from our reality. I think the two always go hand-in-hand, and right now is no exception. To me, that's precisely why Future Nostalgia is such a high point for so many right now, among other reasons (mainly that is f*$%!ng rules). That being said, I can't really see anyone looking back at this mini-period of pop music history fondly... I think, like Dua, there will be a few moments we remember celebrating as a source of release. But beyond that, nah I don't think so.

Jason Lipshutz: It’s hard to say, since some of the trends we’re seeing play out in 2020 so far -- like the disco-pop revival, or the dance challenges aimed at TikTok -- are just getting started, and feel far away from cresting. But in a more specific sense? I love Roddy Ricch’s 11-week Hot 100 champ “The Box,” and will eventually be nostalgic for the days of hearing that “eeh-er” sound at every major gathering (if major gatherings do, in fact, exist in the future).

Andrew Unterberger: I'll certainly remember the music fondly, if not necessarily the associated experiences. Not exactly one of the biggest tragedies of this moment in time, but it is kind of a shame that pop music is in such a fun, upbeat place right now, and we're only able to enjoy it while sequestered in the privacy of our own homes. Maybe let's just agree to pause pop for the next 2-3-however-many months and jump back into it like nothing happened when and if the world re-opens? We all good with that?

Xander Zellner: I’ll always remember listening to this album for the first time while wearing a facemask.