One of the reasons I love music so much is because it makes us feel. No other sensation comes close to when we find the album that speaks to us, or the artist who really understands what we're going through. Over the years, I've collected a lot of music by a lot of artists which perfectly capture so many emotions: I have a playlist for driving down my favorite Texas highway, multiple albums exclusively for vibing, and an artist for when I feel like my life is just too similar to an A24 movie. Good music has the incredible ability to find our weakest spots when we're already at our weakest, and to kick us when we're already down.
Dua Lipa's Future Nostalgia does the exact opposite. Instead of exploiting our vulnerabilities, this album forces us to get off our feet, smile, and forget about how shitty everything is for 37 minutes. It's so full of slick, disco–inspired, funky pop bangers that it's literally impossible to listen to more than a song or two without moving. In Dua's latest round of interviews, she's reiterated she "made this album to get away from any pressures and anxieties and opinions from the outside world." In a time of unprecedented stressors, it feels good to have music designed solely for dancing.
The promotion cycle for this album kicked off with the release of lead single "Don't Start Now." This was a genuinely shocking progression for Dua Lipa. In most pop music circles, she was known as the generic newcomer that flavor–of–the–month EDM producers used to showcase their new beats. But with one song, that entire image changed. Propelled by a funky bassline and a driving, four–on–the–floor, disco beat, Dua Lipa suddenly radiated the confidence of a veteran pop star. It's a genuinely stunning dance track, and left the world eagerly awaiting the rest of the album.
One reason why this album works so well is because of its genuine veneration of pop music history. The title Future Nostalgia seems like a contradictory statement: how can we yearn for something yet to happen? But after even a single listen, it makes sense. Late 70's disco and 80's synth–pop are the most prominent influences across the project, yet each song shines with the chrome–like precision of cutting–edge pop. "Physical," the second single off the album, interpolates the Olivia Newton–John smash hit, but backing strings and an update to the melodic lines position it firmly as a slick, futuristic pop song.
Dua Lipa's appreciation for music history is also apparent in Future Nostalgia's homage to Berry Gordy's Motown and Phil Spector's Brill Building. Gordy and Spector, while developing distinctive musical styles in different parts of the country, are equally responsible for the majority of pop music innovations to occur in the 20th century. "Cool," for example, channels pure MJ–era Motown energy, resplendent with "P.YT."-esque vocalizations and a bassline replete with the swagger of a revving motorcycle engine. "Hallucinate," on the other hand, provides thick, heavy synth–pop textures reminiscent of Spector's signature "Wall of Sound."
Another one of Future Nostalgia's strengths is Dua Lipa's inherent understanding of the mantra "less is more." Three instrumental lines dominate album highlight "Pretty Please": a plucky bassline, catchy drum programming, and Dua's crooning vocals. Other instruments slowly join the track, but the deep cut's relatively slow tempo and sparse mix set it apart from the majority of today's pop music. "Good In Bed" also has a relatively minimal composition, with a bouncy bassline propelling its groovy feel.
Future Nostalgia's one major misstep comes with the inclusion of the final track "Boys Will Be Boys." As its title suggests, the song is built around the phrase "boys will be boys," a loaded statement which has been a part of mainstream feminist discourse for years. In reality, the song doesn't tackle the topic any better than your average faux–woke Taylor Swift song. What's worse is that its inclusion is already unnecessary: Future Nostalgia, at its core, is an already deeply feminist album. "I know you ain't used to a female alpha," Dua declares on the opening title track. From minute one, she lets us know exactly who's running this show. This is her album, her time to shine.
"Boys Will Be Boys," on the other hand, lacks any subtlety, any clever wordplay, or a fresh approach. It reeks of corporate feminism, and is a clear attempt to appropriate a social cause for "woke" points. Furthermore, the track sounds terrible. It takes the absolute worst parts of mid–2010s anthems (think "Roar" and "Fight Song"): a predictable chord progression, an unnecessary choir backing, Imagine Dragon-esque stadium drums, and grating strings that fail to convey a sense of misplaced importance. It's almost incredible how bad this song is in comparison to the sheer excellence of the rest of the album.
My advice: make a Spotify playlist, title it Future Nostalgia, and import every song except for "Boys Will Be Boys." Enjoy! You're now listening to the best disco album of the 21st century.