The RX is Uproxx Music’s stamp of approval for the best albums, songs, and music stories throughout the year. Inclusion in this category is the highest distinction we can bestow, and signals the most important music being released throughout the year. The RX is the music you need, right now.
Across the globe, artists are postponing and canceling shows, suspending promotional campaigns, and pushing their albums back. But last week, Dua Lipa did the opposite. While it might be more in line with the pop audience’s love of breathless exaggeration to call this act heroic, in a lot of ways, it felt like a vote of confidence that the listening public desperately needed. Lipa’s second album, Future Nostalgia, was slated for release this coming Friday, April 3, but when the world began to shift drastically due to social distancing required to halt the global spread of Coronavirus, Lipa didn’t postpone her album, she pushed it up.
Released a week early this past Friday, March 27, the widely-anticipated follow-up to her self-titled 2017 debut, Future Nostalgia features the kind of shimmering, dance-floor bops that can instantly elevate the mood of irritated, exhausted, and isolated people everywhere. It’s one of the most solid wall-to-wall pop albums of the last few years, as each of these eleven tracks has its own mood and style, but each song still blends seamlessly in with the others. Future Nostalgia feels like an aesthetic as much as an album, channeling ‘80s pop like “Physical” right alongside and neon-tinted high-tempo bangers like “Hallucinate.”
Rising to prominence off the swaggering, single-minded get-the-f*ck-over-him banger “No Rules,” Lipa’s take on the brokenhearted pop star protagonist was all cure, no symptoms. Her brisk, no-nonsense prescription for getting rid of the man who can’t commit but wants to keep hooking up anyway struck a chord with a generation raised on casual sex and aloof dismissals. Following that up with an aloof dismissal of her own, in the towering and bombastic “IDGAF,” Lipa proved that regardless of the BPM, listeners were enthralled with her approach.
Future Nostalgia doubles down on all that breakup ammunition, particularly on the lead single “Don’t Start Now,” and another early release, “Break My Heart,” but also stretches out into pure horniness, a perfect complement to the European disco vibes scattered across the record. “Physical” is a cousin to her Calvin Harris collab “One Kiss,” but goes a lot farther than needing a single peck on the lips, and “Good In Bed” is the ideal ode to hate sex, channeling early Kate Nash insolence and just a hint of twee. It’s been a good year, so far, for pop music, but we haven’t gotten anything this devoted to the thrilling rush of physical lust. While everyone is locked away and barred from contact with others, nothing could be hotter.
Interestingly enough, Lipa is the rare global pop star in the social media era who has (mostly) managed to keep her actual personal life out of the spotlight while her star continues to rise. Between Ariana Grande’s Thank U, Next love triangles, Taylor Swift’s album about her real-life Lover, and Beyonce’s dissection of her marriage, the public has come to expect some of a massive star’s IRL love life to animate their music, but Dua is making hits without including any details about her inspirations.
As I listened to her new album this weekend in utter isolation, not driving up and down Sunset Blvd, not blasting it on speakers with friends around, this separation actually offered a welcome distance. Being sick and fearful for the physical health of those I love makes the emotional drama of celebrity relationships feel pale and meaningless, so it’s a relief that this album sidesteps all of that, and still manages to deliver fascinating, endlessly repeatable pop songs full of drama and grace.
And speaking of the latter, sex isn’t the only topic of conversation here, as the album’s concluding track is a mic drop about the excuses our culture routinely makes for the toxic behavior of men, on “Boys Will Be Boys,” where Lipa concludes: “And girls will be women.” The girls who are hurt and abused by the boys who grow up under that blanket excuse become adults, too, and are left with the burden of processing their trauma, falling into the same cycles, and trying to heal. Thankfully, in Dua’s world, a sense of sex-positive strength comes through much stronger than the hearbreak of before – proof that growth and healing isn’t just possible, but is worth celebrating.
Heroic or not, this sleek, electropop album is a cohesive meditation on no-strings horniness and bucking the systems that are set up to hold women, in particular, down. Even just days into listening, it sounds like the kind of album that will invoke nostalgia, in the future, when we remember what it felt like to live in isolation, and the implacable disco-pop that kept us afloat.
Future Nostalgia is out now via Warner Records. Get it here.
Dua Lipa is a Warner Music artist. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.