Right now might be the weirdest time to drop a disco-pop dance album, yet “Future Nostalgia” rises to the impossible task.
Throughout the album, singer Dua Lipa incorporates classic ’80s disco tropes of a strong baseline beat and contrasting syncopation. Adding to the danceability, the layers are introduced in stagger as if it were being mixed live by a DJ.
“Future Nostalgia” was designed to mimic a live party for whenever and wherever — how timely.
While this album stands out as a thoughtful and complete work, Lipa has come a long way to this point.
As a waitress in England, Lipa was discovered for her singing ability and released her first album in 2017. Although it was a successful premiere of her distinct deeper singing voice and star-studded with featuring artists, it lacked cohesion and direction. It was someone trying to find their sound.
In contrast, “Future Nostalgia” shows intention around every turn.
“You want a timeless song, I want to change the game,” Lipa sings as the first lyrics on the album.
The title itself is riddled with double-meaning. Because of the ’80s influences, “Future Nostalgia” is first an allusion to the nostalgic music brought to the present-day.
However, “Future Nostalgia” is also emblematic of where pop music is heading.
As evidence of this, The Weeknd also released a chart-topping album, “After Hours,” that shows ‘80s pop influences on March 20. Genius covered both trendsetting albums, comparing them to ’80s hits like Prince and A-ha.
Given this, Lipa is nodding to the fact that this album will later be a time capsule of 2020 music. In theory, listeners will feel nostalgia both now for the ’80s and in the future for 2020.
As singles from the album continue to top charts, this will only continue to become truer. “Don’t Start Now,” her first single from the album, rose to #3 on Billboard and remained on the charts for 24 weeks. Her next single, “Break My Heart,” has been rising on Billboard since the release of the album.
It would also be a shame to discuss the “Future Nostalgia” without recognizing the strong feminist message woven throughout it. In the opening song, Lipa references that the industry isn’t used to a “female alpha,” then closes with “Boys Will Be Boys,” an anthem against gender inequality and toxic masculinity.
Part of the message of “Boys Will Be Boys” is the unfairness that causes girls to grow up much quicker than boys. To juxtapose this, Lipa’s voice is accompanied by a girls’ choir singing the chorus, “boys will be boys and girls will be women.”
Although tying in with the message of the album, “Boys Will Be Boys” sticks out almost like a different genre. The artistic choice to include the girls' choir was interesting but felt almost hokey in the context of greater work.
That said, the song and lyrics still stand strong. It makes an excellent anthemic capstone to “Future Nostalgia.”
Overall, the album is a quality collective work. The artful intention and attention to detail are admirable, regardless of music preferences. “Future Nostalgia” earns 4/5 stars for stepping back into the ’80s in the most aptly-timed way.
Bring on the shoulder pads next, yeah?