In 2018, Dua Lipa was crowned as the year’s most-streamed female artist worldwide on Spotify. New Rules was smashing charts everywhere while her debut self-titled album also became the most played female-led album ever on the platform. For such a new artist, it was revolutionary.
However, an unfortunate aspect from that era had been Dua’s lack of stage presence in her live performances. Memes upon memes were made of her bad dancing and not long after, it became nearly synonymous with her career. For an artist of her stature, it wasn't the most appealing thing to live in the minds of the public, given her music was so fantastic.
So over the past five months and in lead-up to today's early release of Future Nostalgia, Dua has committed to showing us how she's become more confident, more poised and more self-assured than ever - with the retro-inspired music to match.
Don’t Stop Now, the lead single and runaway hit off her album Future Nostalgia, is drenched in an '80s dance-pop aesthetic that many are embracing nowadays (just look at The Weeknd). It’s a song that was destined for chart domination, but it truly gained momentum after Dua’s showstopping turn at the EMAs.
Backed by dozens of back-up dancers, the performance was an announcement of a new era and a declaration to anyone that had doubted her. Gone were any robotic movements, replaced with choreography that would have put prime Britney Spears to shame. No longer was she a faceless performer on stage; Dua commanded attention and she needed her presence to be felt.
She then followed up with the record’s title track, which feels more like an album deep cut with its spoken/rap verses and generally slower tempo, though still '80s inspired. It was less radio-friendly but in its place, acted as a telling offering for what fans could expect from Future Nostalgia and the new Dua Lipa through the track’s over-abundance of sass.
On Physical, Dua refocused on chart success and dropped another '80s dance-centric (see the theme here?) banger. The Coronavirus epidemic probably halted all potential live performance plans for the song, but she came prepared as the single already has, as of writing, five music videos to its name. They further helped affirm the neon-hued, sleek Future Nostalgia aesthetic.
There have been two music videos for Physical - one official (seen above) and one “workout”. The former is a high-budget pop video with slick choreography, which isn’t anything outside of Dua’s wheelhouse. However, the latter is where everything Dua has built up 'til now really shines.
An endearing feature of the '80s were always their aerobics videos, content that was both informative and amusing. So the cheeky music video was an on-the-nose attempt to really hammer home to viewers how much Dua has grown as both a dancer and performer. It’s the work of an artist that’s thoroughly confident in her newfound poise.
This self-assurance could be attributed to the nostalgia that she’s been unabashedly tapping into for the rollout, too. Citing Outkast and No Doubt as influences, she describes the albums sound as “[incorporating] that nostalgic feeling of all my favourite childhood memories and inspirations into something new and modern”.
For example, her sitcom-skit with Vogue. A clear homage to classic '80s/'90s TV shows, the familiarity of the format leaves the focus on Dua Lipa to perform and stun viewers. And so she did, with outfits that belong at NYFW and comedic chops that are a welcome addition to an already expansive arsenal.
With Dua’s latest album cycle centred around the '80s, both musically and physically, the confidence she’s brought helps with the absolute commitment to the image she’s solidified. There’s a personal touch that’s felt throughout the marketing campaign, where every move is according to her strong artistic vision.
The consistency in the music, videos and promotional material are signs of an artist fully in control. Even the early change to her album release date seems to be a way for fans to enjoy her music sooner while trapped in isolation.
It reflects Dua’s strides as an artist that’s coming into her own. Not only has she shut down nearly all past criticisms thrown at her, Dua goes above the call of duty and presents to us an era that is unafraid of showcasing her strengths, instilling faith in her fans that not only can they expect, but are even encouraged, to expect brilliance from Future Nostalgia. And we aren't let down.