British born Kosovar Albanian singer Dua Lipa has side-stepped the pitfalls of the Difficult Second Album by returning to the old saw of disco-revivalism. It’s a surefire way to score a hit: Madonna, Kylie Minogue & Sophie Ellis-Bextor have proven time and time again that disco is never really dead, despite the saying. On Future Nostalgia Lipa indulges our current obsession with a romanticised version of the late 70s and 80s along with nu-disco that feels very 2003. Of course, that’s a good thing.
Future Nostalgia’s self-titled opening track borrows the robo-swagger of ‘Thriller’, of all things. It’s a ballsy opener which cuts to the quick of what Dua is attempting here: a shiny, fleet (under 40 minutes) collection of pop-as-pleasure. There’s no wider treatise here. It’s a simple message: enjoy yourself. Considering most major label albums at the moment present themselves as some sort of grand mission statement, it’s refreshing. And if you like pop music, then you almost certainly will enjoy yourself here.
The title is a misnomer though. Despite some shiny synth tones and touches of vocoder, this isn’t indebted to the 80s, or even the 70s. The obvious lodestone is Confessions on a Dance Floor and turn of the century French house a lá Modjo, Michael Gray & Daft Punk. All of that context is clear on ‘Don’t Start’, the lead single that comes pool-party ready. The tricky beats and funky bass lines appear again on ‘Cool’, ‘Physical’ & ‘Levitating’, all of which are fantastic pop. ‘Cool’ is particularly worthy of praise – a ballad of sorts which channels a cute synth loop and a tightly interlocking groove.
None of this is particularly inspiring, but the way these well-worn pop hallmarks are combined often is. The insouciance with which Dua makes her demands – of life and of men, gives these songs a louche, rakish appeal. ‘Pretty Please’ is a great example – a song that is not a question but a very sugar sweet, very direct demand.
The only time this sours a little is on the closing tracks. ‘Good in Bed’ has some really weak couplets and a drilling, unpleasant chorus. Then there’s ‘Boys Will Be Boys’ – a straight-laced ballad about gender-politics that sheds the bedazzled cloak of bells and whistles that had provided much of the album’s thrills. The strings and military roll beat isn’t very stirring, and while the message may be entirely worthwhile it feels totally out of place here.
A wobble at the end can’t dampen what Future Nostalgia is: pure Saturday night rocket fuel.