New Rules: The sleeper hit that made a star

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By Jack

‘New Rules’ hitting No.1 on the domestic charts was Dua Lipa’s long-awaited crowning moment. At 22 years of age, Dua’s coronation was surely a foregone conclusion – so perfectly did she embody the pop zeitgeist.

Dua Lipa is young and fierce with the smoky voice, ‘vocal fry’ as it’s known, that pop producers are increasingly drawn to –  promulgated by MØ, Zara Larsson, Sia, not to mention queen Rih herself. In addition, she can pull off a crop top – something nobody on the Hey Nineteen writing staff is able to do.

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Alex had to return this

Put simply, Dua Lipa is pop music in 2017. We covered her new track in-depth here.

So how and why did ‘New Rules’ make Dua the pop upstart du-jour?

This was not DL’s first scrap in the Top-40. In fact, by now she’s been skirmishing around the Top 20 for several months, with a string of respectable, if minor, hits under her belt. ‘Hotter Than Hell’ and ‘Blow Your Mind (Mwah)’ both dented the domestic charts, with the latter finding moderate success in the US, a territory that Dua will one day dominate.

‘Be The One’ was the Brit-Albanian’s first Top-10 hit. Crucially, the song was a distillation of elements and production choices that had appeared on big pop songs in recent years. Indeed, from a production standpoint, if not tonally, the song is the flipside to Zara Larsson’s ‘Lush Life’, with that evasive ‘misty’ quality – lo-fi, but done on a big budget.

This brings us to ‘New Rules’ which again channels motifs and styles that have appeared on recent hits. The incorporation of world music influences is a clear nod to Major Lazer, whose track ‘Lean On’ was the most streamed song of 2015. The two share many common elements – an Eastern-inspired beat, floaty tropical synths and an idiosyncratic, memorable vocal refrain.

However there were other reasons beside sheer pop acumen that contributed to ‘New Rules’ landing as it did. The music video for ‘New Rules’ is eye-catching, and while MTV is long defunct, the motto lives on: get a hit video and you have a hit song. This is especially true now that YouTube views are counted in the US Billboard Chart. Long before the track itself made an impact, its video, wherein Dua struts about the Miami Confidante, was picking up millions of views.

Besides this, the greatest reason for the success of ‘New Rules’ is in the writing. History proves there is always gold to be mined by female singers wanting to take a pop at the archetypes of male egotism.

These change with the ages; from the yacht-owning dilettante in Carly Simon’s ‘You’re So Vain’ to the pompous man-of-the-world in Madge’s ‘Sorry’. Dua’s target is familiar to all of us: The Fuckboy.

And of course, like any call to sisterhood, the song proved massively popular with gay men. Just look up #newrules on insta – it’s a whole lot of buff gay dudes.

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