I told you Dua Lipa would save us.
At the dawn of the Time of Social Distancing, pop artists like Lady Gaga and Haim have been delaying album releases until a moment when they can tour and promote them properly. Their decisions are defensible, but so is our desire to dance. We are stuck in our homes, desperate for distraction and cheer and sex. Dua saw our distress signal in the suddenly smog-free sky and answered the call: she actually moved the release of her second album Future Nostalgia up a couple of weeks. It’s out tonight, and it’s exactly what you need. Having spent 24 hours with it, allow me to evaluate how well it suits the three specific activities you’ll be using it for throughout the weekend and beyond:
Scoot that coffee table to the corner of the living room, friends: Future Nostalgia is proudly, unabashedly a disco record. Dua’s got the pipes to transition into a sound that’s more analog and soulful, and we see occasional flashes of it here, but somehow she predicted that this would not be the time for experimentation. Not for her, anyway; this album will challenge you to workshop some new moves. “Physical” will have you jumping and pumping a fist, “Cool” might inspire you to try a more lascivious, floor-based routine. It will all make you dance like nobody is watching, at a time when it’s entirely possible that nobody is. Future Nostalgia is wall-to-wall disco bangers, at a time when dance is emotional expression, a break from non-stop grim news, and your only chance to close your rings. Your disco needs you, even if your disco is in the room where you have your work Zooms and Netflix binges and dinner.
EXERCISING IN WHATEVER KIND OF HOME GYM YOU’VE THROWN TOGETHER
Dua can blow, Dua can serve looks, but crucial to her worldwide success is her attitude. She is approachable and bad-ass at the same time, regal and just a little bit earthy. In short, she is an acceptable role model for young and old, male and female alike. Dua Lipa was packed with songs of longing—“Be The One” and “Genesis” most notably—and even when she was pining for a lost love, she had self-assurance. In Future Nostalgia, there’s no time for tears; she’s either happy in love, getting some solid action, or kissing someone off. Even when she’s expressing her powerlessness in a new relationship, she does it like a queen: “God damn, you’ve got me in love again.” She has achieved her second and most powerful form to date: the female alpha she describes herself as in the title track. Her swagger is a good thing to hold in your mind to bully yourself through a home workout, even if you’re doing it on your dad’s dusty stationary bike. And though it initially sounded to me like a tune someone unsuccessfully pitched to Amy Winehouse, penultimate track “Good In Bed” will absolutely provide the soundtrack to some scorching make-up sex if you’re quarantined with a significant other, and that can be an aerobic activity in itself.
STARING INTO THE MIDDLE DISTANCE, TRYING TO DISTRACT YOURSELF FROM SOME TRULY AWFUL BUT PLAUSIBLE DOOMSDAY THINKING
Sure, Future Nostalgia feels like a lightweight pop record, but it gives you plenty to think about. For example: how did she know to release an album with lyrics like “I should have stayed at home” and “don’t show up, don’t come out” in March of 2020? Why does she pronounce the words “touch” and “much” like “tuh-eech” and “muh-eech?” Is that a nod to Outkast’s “Rosa Parks” I’m hearing in the chorus of “Levitating,” and a suggestion of Patti LaBelle’s “New Attitude” in “Physical?” When was the last time American Googie architect John Lautner got name-checked in the first line of a disco album, as he does in “Future Nostalgia?” What does the chorus of “Break My Heart” remind me of? (Free answer: INXS’s “Need You Tonight.”)
And finally, does the #MeToo movement finally have its anthem in album closer “Boys Will Be Boys” (”and girls will be women”), a song that will one hundred percent be performed in a stripped-down version at next year’s Grammys, with a pianist and a children’s choir? This song points the way forward for our queen, and though I’m ready for her to be a Significant Artist With Things To Say, right now I need her to throw glitter at me and push me onto the dance floor.
She’s done it. Future Nostalgia is the album this moment demands. Change into some loose-fitting clothing and get into it.
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