One of the most thrilling career trajectories that we’ve witnessed in the past decade goes to Dua Lipa. Before the age of 25, the British singer has quickly transformed into a confident, risk-taking pop star: after wooing us with her husky vocals and punchy pop singles on her 2017 self-titled debut album, Dua accelerated into one of the leaders of the current disco-pop revival, and has now returned with sophomore album Future Nostalgia.
Originally slated for April 3, the expedited date now carries an even deeper meaning with the current pandemic crisis. “Although it’s scary to put a record out right now,” Dua recently explained on Miley Cyrus’ Bright Minded Instagram Live series, “I also feel like maybe music is kind of what we need. And it’s good to just get people to dance and have fun.”
The concept of “fun” may prove to be too simple of a word when explaining how near-flawless Future Nostalgia is. Anchored by pre-release tracks “Don’t Start Now,” “Physical” and “Break My Heart,” the album finds Lipa swerving far past her sonic boundaries as she embraces the freedom that power pop gives her. With collaborators like Grammy-winning industry favorite Jeff Bhasker, Ian Kirkpatrick (“New Rules” and Selena Gomez’s “Bad Liar”) and mega-producer Stuart Price (Madonna’s Confessions on a Dancefloor) in the passenger seat, the singer takes control of what she wants her artistry to exude.
Below, Billboard ranks all 11 songs on Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia.
11. “Boys Will Be Boys”
In an album that is overflowing with party bangers, “Boys Will Be Boys” is the sole track that comes close to ballad status. Lipa, who isn’t one to mask her opinions, addresses toxic masculinity and praises strong women atop a sweeping, orchestral melody. But the kids’ choir towards the end isn’t a strong enough call-to-action.
10. “Pretty Please”
Lipa tries to relieve some sexual tension on “Pretty Please,” a wink-filled midtempo track that drips with a molasses-heavy bass line. While the singer has mastered how to be seductive temptress, this track might have you second-guessing whether to pick up that late-night booty call.
9. “Good In Bed”
“Good In Bed” is slightly reminiscent of fellow Brit Lily Allen, thanks to its vibrant melodies and bubbly sonic effects that literally burst throughout the song. Lipa lets her thick accent take charge on this one, but the chorus isn’t enough to keep the cheekiness afloat.
Lipa reunites with producer Koz (“Last Dance,” “Hotter Than Hell, “IDGAF”) for this summery jam that’s served best as a soundtrack for a Miami road trip. The singer sits comfortably on cruise control as she rides straight into outer space with her sugar boo (“If you wanna run away with me, I know a galaxy / And I can take you for a ride”). Those bizarre synths keep “Levitating” from becoming too sickly-sweet, though.
7. “Future Nostalgia”
Millennial pop singers, take note: this is how you start an album! The title track, dripping in ‘80s electro-funk, finds Lipa taking a firm grip behind the wheel. She smoothly changes lanes between the cocky spoken-word verses and purring on the chorus. It’s a flirty wink of a song (“I know you ain’t used to a female alpha”) that reflects the singer’s confident nature.
6. “Love Again”
White Town’s 1997 hit “Your Woman” breathes new life on “Love Again,” one of the sultrier moments on the album — and, damn, who knew it would be such a match? Those buzzing strings give an added jolt of nostalgia, as Lipa is in disbelief that she’s found herself in yet another out-of-body love experience.
Well, it turns out Gwen Stefani isn’t the only one who can perfect an ‘80-inspired love song with this title. In a sea of confident tunes, “Cool” is one of the few vulnerable moments found on the album. That can partially be credited to co-writer Tove Lo, who isn’t afraid to let her guard down. Lipa allows her typically sturdy voice to break as she professes her puppy love on the chorus: “We got the heat and the thrill / ‘Cause you’re more than any pill.”
“I knew there was no way I could do a festival without this song,” Lipa explained in Apple Music’s liner notes. And it makes total sense: “Hallucinate” borrows Kylie Minogue’s euphoric ‘90s dance formula and sends you straight to heaven. Strictly meant for listeners to dance their heart out in the middle of the dancefloor, its funky melody is topped with a dollop of Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face”-esque mum mum mum mah’s.
3. “Break My Heart”
With a thumping sample of INXS’s chart-topping 1987 smash “Need You Tonight” as the base, “Break My Heart” transforms into a downright sexy jam. Lipa takes a page out of Robyn’s “crying in the club” notebook in an attempt to pick up the jagged pieces of her heart that are shining in the dance floor’s laser lights. But she soon realizes that she just needs to toss those emotions aside and keep on dancing.
2. “Don’t Start Now”
“Don’t Start Now,” the lead single from Future Nostalgia, perfectly captures the album’s nu-disco energy that transports everything this generation wishes we could experience from the iconic Studio 54 era. Continuing Lipa’s bullet-point lyricism from 2017’s “New Rules,” the high-octane kiss-off anthem is anchored by her velvety vocals, a bass line that Mark Ronson wishes he thought of first and insanely catchy synths that glimmers like a classic disco ball.
For those yearning for stars to return to music’s power-pop heydays, “Physical” took that ideation completely over the edge. In just over three minutes, Lipa guides us on an exhilarating joyride with a dangerously addictive melody that stomps just hard enough to bring ‘80s jazzercise ghouls back from the grave. With its noir synths, pleads to never stop dancing and catchy chants (“LET’S GET PHYSICAL!”), “Physical” whirs and stretches like Olivia Newton-John’s best Lyrca leggings. Don’t you agree?