Bring me anyone who disagrees that Dua Lipa is one of the most significant pop artists of this moment. The UK/Kosovar-Albanian singer’s popularity is undeniable—as I type, Lipa is Spotify’s fifth most played artist in the world—but the idea that she’s one of the defining pop artists of her time is rarely raised.
Could it be that her music is simply too upbeat, too fun? It’d be a strange counterargument, but Lipa’s customary vibrancy is a contrast to the belting, mid-tempo anthemics of her predecessors Adele and Sia and the 808s and heartbreak of Drake and Ariana Grande.
The London-born Lipa certainly prefers to summon a fun, feelgood energy, but on her second and most recent album, 2020’s Future Nostalgia, she proves you can keep the tempos pumping and hooks flowing without sacrificing artistic integrity. In fact, Lipa’s integrity—and the amount of praise showered on her by egghead critics—has only proceeded to grow as her popularity has risen; itself a convincing argument for her admission to the contemporary pop pantheon.
Either way, Lipa’s steadily expanding back catalogue is full of sensual pop delights, many of which will get their Australian live debut on the artist’s 2022 national tour. Here are ten we can’t wait to hear.
1. ‘Physical’, Future Nostalgia (2020)
Future Nostalgia, the follow-up to Lipa’s self-titled debut from 2017, largely centres on a disco throwback sound that’s somewhere between Chic and ‘90s revivalists like Kylie Minogue and Jamiroquai. But despite sharing a name with Olivia Newton John’s dance-pop classic, the album’s standout track, ‘Physical’, is more akin to the indie dance of artists like Ladyhawke or Santigold.
Regardless, in a track-sequence full of infectious pop songs, it provides the most to chew on and fully optimises Lipa’s hardy vocal capacity.
2. ‘Break My Heart’, Future Nostalgia (2020)
INXS’ Michael Hutchence and Andrew Farriss are both credited as co-writers on ‘Break My Heart’. This is due to similarities with the INXS song ‘Need You Tonight’, specifically pertaining to a recurring guitar motif that features in both songs. Lipa and co. claim it was an accident and, to be fair, before it was brought to my attention, ‘Break My Heart’ had sufficiently charmed without conjuring images of Hutchence’s curly locks.
The song addresses a familiar theme for Lipa; i.e. the sacrificing of her independence. Here, she muses on whether she should’ve stayed home and therefore protected herself from potential heartbreak. But despite the thematic ambivalence, there’s nothing hesitant about the funk-pop groove and Lipa’s richly resonant lead vocals.
3. ‘New Rules’, Dua Lipa (2017)
Dua Lipa was for a time considered an alt-pop artist. It mightn’t have been her intention to be considered thus, and surely not that of her label, Warner Records, but she was also never preoccupied with regurgitating prevailing pop trends.
In fact, in signing with a major label, Lipa was adamant that she be given creative input in everything she released. As it stands, she’s co-written all but two tracks on her two studio albums, with her breakthrough single, ‘New Rules’, being one of the rare exceptions.
Released two years after Lipa’s debut single, ‘New Rules’ was such a pervasive international success that it henceforth became impossible to conceive of Lipa as being “alt” anything. Although slyly experimental and hyper pop-adjacent, ‘New Rules’ is universal pop music, the kind that can be enjoyed in clubs and bars, cafes and living rooms, by all and sundry.
4. ‘Don’t Start Now (Yaeji Remix)’, Club Future Nostalgia (2020)
Released in late 2019, Future Nostalgia’s lead single, ‘Don’t Start Now’, has become Lipa’s most popular release to date. And with good reason—try getting its central hook out of your brain after a single listen. As part of the Club Future Nostalgia rework LP, ‘Don’t Start Now’ is given the remix treatment by NY electronic producer Yaeji.
Yaeji takes the ecstasy of the original into stranger, more subterranean areas. Never mind, however, as the tasteful pop hooks that underpinned the song’s original popularity retain their penetrating force even in the altered context.
5. ‘Pretty Please’, Future Nostalgia (2020)
‘Pretty Please’ is the perfect song to show your friends who have no interest in contemporary pop music. You know, people who call it “crap, generic, soulless”; this’ll turn them ’round. It’s still an upbeat disco groover, but it’s one of the record’s more understated cuts, featuring very little post-production gloss.
In this way, ‘Pretty Please’ is evidence of Lipa’s ability to sell a melody and lustful lyric without resorting to technical trickery or conventional dynamic push-and-pull.
6. ‘That Kind of Woman (Jacques Lu Cont Remix)’, Club Future Nostalgia (2020)
Although a remix album, Club Future Nostalgia isn’t a shameless cash grab on the part of Lipa’s label. Lipa conceived the record with her friend, Kentucky house DJ The Blessed Madonna, who she apparently met while partying at Glastonbury in disguise. They wanted to create a remix album that could stand on its own two feet, something related to but distinct from the original LP.
‘That Kind of Woman’ is a Future Nostalgia outtake and the track’s original version eventually surfaced up on the album’s expanded Moonlight Edition. But this Jacques Le Cont remix (a pseudonym for producer Stuart Price) is such an ace bit of Balearic house that it’s hard to think of it as anything but the definitive version. It also indicates Lipa could give Lady Gaga a run for her money if she decides to ditch disco in favour of collectivist house music on her next LP.
7. ‘Lost In Your Light feat. Miguel’, Dua Lipa (2017)
‘Lost in Your Light’ features guest vocals from Miguel, one of mainstream R&B’s maverick creators. He and Lipa share this in common—they’re both immensely popular, but seem more interested in following their muse than chasing Benjamins.
Lipa didn’t need Miguel’s co-sign, but the two make a good match on ‘Lost in Your Light’. It’s the sort of track that would’ve justified the “alt-pop” descriptor, finding a middle ground between indie-disco faves like Future Islands and TV On the Radio and the rock-adjacent R&B of Miguel’s Wildheart.
8. ‘Cool (Jayda G Remix)’, Club Future Nostalgia (2020)
Canadian DJ and producer Jayda G is the future of hard and sweaty house music. She’d make an ideal offsider if Lipa ever did decide to make the aforementioned detour into MDMA beach party music.
Here, Jayda G flips Future Nostalgia’s ‘Cool’ into a clarion call for a night on the dancefloor. The remix runs for just two minutes, but you’ll burn through roughly 100 calories in that time simply trying to keep up with the acid house bass grooves.
9. ‘Levitating’, Future Nostalgia (2020)
Lipa is 26 years old and was born in 1995, meaning her parents were in the target demographic for the funk and post-disco revivalism of Jamiroquai and Fever-era Kylie. Future Nostalgia is in many ways an homage to this era of pop music, and nowhere more so than on ‘Levitating’.
With its effortless cool and unironic pop sugar-coating, ‘Levitating’ also bears semblance to Gwen Stefani circa Love. Angel. Music. Baby. and Bruno Mars at his extroverted, ‘24K Magic’ best. But comparisons aside, ‘Levitating’ is further proof of Lipa’s unique talent for bringing new life to sounds previously considered old hat.
10. ‘Love Is Religion (The Blessed Madonna Remix)’, Club Future Nostalgia (2020)
‘Love Is Religion’ is another previously unreleased track to be included on Club Future Nostalgia. It’s also the only track on the album credited to just Lipa and The Blessed Madonna.
It’s a bit of vintage pop optimism, the sort of song that reminds you life is for living, songs are for singing and grooves are to be created with the movement of your body. Or, as Pitchfork’s Owen Myers described it, “[it] sounds like a Lip Sync for Your Life song from RuPaul’s Drag Race in the best way.”
Tickets to Dua Lipa’s newly announced second shows in Sydney and Melbourne go on sale tomorrow. The shows are part of the Australian leg of her mammoth ‘Future Nostalgia’ world tour. Check out the dates and ticket info here.