Dua Lipa’s new album, Future Nostalgia, is an ode to good memories and a gateway to Zumba. Josie Adams listened to it and took a heady trip into her past.
We’re only three months in, but I’m calling it now: Future Nostalgia will be one of the best pop records released this decade. It’s dropped slightly earlier than anticipated, in part because of an unfortunate album leak, but also because old mate Dua correctly thought we could use some joy right now. And straight off the bat: this album gives a lot of joy.
As the title hints, Dua Lipa isn’t interested in just looking backwards. Her nostalgia is one that operates independent of time; she’s wistful for loves both lost in the past and blossoming in the future. And although the album’s early singles set expectations high, Dua and her team smashed those expectations into the basement and boarded them over with planks carved from the skeleton of pre-2020 pop music, because she killed it.
To honour its arrival and the artistic intent of its creator, I gave the record a listen and explained what each song made me nostalgic for — past, present and, of course, future.
The album’s opening and title track starts out reminding me of an ‘80s pick-a-path video game soundtrack, but by the bridge I know I’m actually listening to the soundtrack for a (currently) nonexistent Paul Feig-directed adaptation of William Gibson’s Neuromancer. Some of the other songs on the album veer towards almost vaporwave-esque pop, but the synths on this one are explicitly ‘80s electro. It reminds me of my time spent as an elite hacker, surfing the mainframe and crunching bugs.
Don’t Start Now
This song reminds me of four months ago when I first heard it and decided to get a gym membership. Probing deeper, it makes me nostalgic for the few fleeting moments in my life where I’ve exhibited emotional strength. There’s a wooden clap that manifests somewhere in the middle of the song that takes me to a breezy field, with a horse, on which I will ride away from my problems.
Gentle synth turns into hard drums — is this what they call “new wave”? Because I’m surfing it. I’m riding this gnarly wave all the way back to 2003 and buying a HitClip that I will play outside my Year 6 paramour’s classroom. It’s actually just plain old pop music, and it bangs. This song takes me back to the lovelorn mania Dua Lipa is experiencing without putting my heart rate in the anxiety danger zone, which I appreciate.
I was getting a certain vibe from the aesthetics of ‘Don’t Start Now’, and now it’s confirmed: Dua Newton John is in the house. Lipa’s ‘80s nostalgia is a little Aussie-inspired, and I love that for her. I’m visualising a glossy tanning oil sheen and a fight outside a Les Mills. I’m smelling the intoxicating vanilla musk of my teenage deodorant. I’m praying that Dua Lipa will one day appear in a live TV musical.
“My love is like a rocket, watch it blast off,” is a great lyric in any context, but in a crisp English accent wedged in the white space between some really funky riffs, it takes you to a wedding reception with an open bar. This is all about the first blushes of love, and at this point in the album I’m having future nostalgia for the peppy whirlwind summer romance Dua Lipa and I will share, or at least the one that she’ll kindly soundtrack for me.
As soon as the bassline starts bumpin on this track, I’m transported back in time, either to New York in the ’80s, or the time in 2005 when my sister and I took ‘MTV-style’ dance classes with the ex-wife of Kid Creole from Kid Creole and the Coconuts. I don’t recall how or why I’m here, but I’m having a helluva good time.
This is so good I feel like I must have hallucinated it, because surely no living mortal could create such a vibe. It takes me back to being 19, needing no sleep, jazzed on Cindy’s, walking 40 miles uphill in freezing snow just to get to a Dunedin house party — and loving it.
A lush violin intro melds seamlessly with a sample from White Town’s 90s hit ‘Your Woman,’ which is one of my favourite songs, and God damn, you’ve got me in love again, Dua Lipa. I’m flashing back to the beautiful crescendo of every love story in my life tapestry. It’s the first time I saw the Bachelorette, Dr Lesina Nakhid-Schuster. Why did you play me this way?
Break My Heart
It starts with an INXS bass riff, so you already know what this throws back to: my own personal fashion inspiration, Michael Hutchence. With luscious curls, dirty basslines, and sinfully deep-cut shirts — how could Dua Lipa’s heart not be broken? If she’s looking for an antipodean stud to treat her terribly, I volunteer. ‘Break My Heart’ makes me think about my choices and realise that, yes, they’re bad, but they’re kinda nice with it.
Good In Bed
Musically, this is a slight departure from the rest of the album. It’s staccato piano-led and snarky, so it’s a definite British vibe — no accent required to pin down this song’s geography. It’s also filthy. Smutty. It reminds me of the staircase at my old apartment in Edinburgh, where the shadows gave off a sexy air but hid some serious health and safety hazards.
Boys Will be Boys
The album’s closing track is another one that takes us out of the dance studio. The violin-and-piano combo is a classic for swelling hearts with profound inspiration, but unlike most anthems this pulls not one single punch. It would have gone off at my all-girls high school; a throwback to the heady days of inspirational Tumblr reblogs and Upworthy shares on Facebook. It might make you want to run up a mountain, which is a bit difficult for now, but powerful lights-off living room dancing should work just fine.
The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed daily digest of New Zealand’s most important stories, delivered directly to your inbox each morning.