Dua Lipa "Dua Lipa" - An Album Review
Diving into one of 2017's most anticipated debuts.
'Having answered her calling as a musician, [Dua Lipa] is poised to become a dangerously exciting pop star.' The words of NME's Thomas Smith, describing one of the UKs hottest new talents in July last year.
This quote has been tumbling in my brain since the release of her self-titled debut earlier this month. Up front, first things first: Dua Lipa is a damn good album. It's bold, inventive and contains a wide array of flavours and delights. Desire and romantic drama, deep introspection and blissful release - as a writer and performer, the 21 year old is witty, confident, smart and demonstrates great emotional maturity. Both Dua Lipa and Dua Lipa are effortlessly cool and exciting. But 'dangerously' so?
I think I'm too caught up in semantics. Lipa has already established a distinctive pitch. Iconic status isn't beyond her, many would claim she's already there, but there's no danger of her shattering any paradigms. Which is a good thing - over the past 5 years or so, popular music has clawed back a lot of credibility and critical weight. It's hard to criticise someone for ranking alongside the likes of Sia and Lorde and Charli XCX.
Religious themes crop up a few times through Dua Lipa. Opener "Genesis" and seventh track "Garden" both invoke imagery of Adam and Eve. Two figures entwined in extraordinary circumstances; emotions and dangers and ecstatic experiences. "Genesis" also offers an early example of Dua Lipa's lyrical quality - God created heaven and earth/For what it's worth/I think that he might've created you first.
The best song on the album is "Lost in Your Light"; a collaboration with Californian R&B singer Miguel. But let's not go there yet. Delaying pleasure makes the release all the more sweeter.
"Hotter Than Hell" probably remains Lipa's most recognisable hit. I found this song only moderately interesting when it hit the charts back in May 2016. Repeat listens have really helped. It's pounding, it's relentless, there are plenty of throw-your-arms-up and sing moments. It's also a great showcase for the darker, muscular production which provides so many textures to many of Lipa's tunes.
Another big hit, "Blow Your Mind (Mwah)" is the most Charli XCX song on the album. Lot's of 'Hey's!' and the titular 'Mwah' - all very reminiscent of Charli's deliciously addictive line in obnoxious joy. It's a lot of fun; though not as much as "IDGAF"
Clicks, guitar licks and gratuitous (but wholly appropriate) swearing; "IDGAF" is a righteous middle finger to a pathetic ex. There's such a stark contrast here - Lipa delivers a confident example of remaining true to yourself while moving on; while barely keeping a lid on her seething contempt. This makes me smile.
"New Rules" is "IDGAF's" conflicted companion piece. She was holding fast, now she's struggling to keep her former lover out of her life. It contains some fascinating lyrical moments too: One, don't pick up the phone, you know he's only calling 'cause he's drunk and alone, to the less subtle; And if you're under him, you ain't gettin' over him. "New Rules" features some of the album's tightest production and is definitely it's most distinctive element.
One sign of a great album is how well its filler holds up against other artist's best works. Dua Lipa falls away a little in the middle; but the experience overall balances it out. I don't have any dramatic complaints about this album; though I am concerned about a precedent 2017 seems to have set: Chris Martin dropping by to supply an album's least interesting moment.
The Chainsmokers' did it with "Something Just Like This". Here, he collaborates with Lipa on "Homesick"; a surprisingly bloodless piano ballad. There's very little to say about it. It does allow a little breathing room for Lipa's incredible voice. There's that I guess.
And so "Lost In Your Light." It's glorious. Distinctive percussion, atmospheric synths, a subtle yet irresistible guitar. Vocally Lipa and Miguel bounce off one each other beautifully. It's clear that they're addicted to one another, but they manage to retain their unique identities as performers. Of everything Dua Lipa has to offer, "Lost in Your Light" is the one song now wired into my brain stem.
On reflection...I kind of resent this album. Is it worth investing your time and money in? Absolutely. But it became clear early on that 2017 was going to be a significantly better year for albums than 2016. Drawing up a year-end Top Ten is going to be a nightmare. So thanks Dua; you and your great debut have made my job more difficult.