Here’s a piece of pop culture that we would kiss if we could.
"Future Nostalgia" by Dua Lipa (Warner)
On some corners of the internet, new content from an entertainer is heralded as that person "keeping us fed."
I’ll buy into the metaphor. Dua Lipa has prepared a full Golden Corral buffet, complete with carving station, soft serve machine and those oily yeast rolls they bring to your table.
With her second album, "Future Nostalgia," the British singer-songwriter has disbursed a stimulus check for bliss to every pop music fan. Most other major musicians have delayed their new albums, including Austin’s Willie Nelson and Lipa’s godmother in bops, Lady Gaga. Lipa, however, moved the release of her sophomore effort up — she even said to delay it would be a disservice to fans.
"I just wanted to make an album that was fun and something that I could dance to and something that made me feel good," she told NPR earlier this week. "So I feel like maybe now more than ever, that album should just come out."
And so, that’s how Lipa helpfully became the internet’s quarantine queen. Much has been written about the power of well-crafted hooks and uninhibited limb-flailing in dark times — in fact, recent Austin shows from Carly Rae Jepsen and Robyn have reminded me of pop music’s spiritual potency. The world is scarier now. But those of us who were raised in the Bible know all about singing with a joy beyond your circumstances.
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"Future Nostalgia" tints that cathartic quality with the best of the old and the new. Lead single "Don’t Start Now," a Billboard hit you’ve probably already heard, swivels and bursts with Donna Summer swagger as it reminds the pandemic-isolated masses, "Don’t show up, don’t go out." The Olivia Newton-John nod "Physical" pounds Patti LaBelle’s "New Attitude" and "Blackout"-era Britney Spears into a sweat-soaked millennial sex anthem that, incidentally, is the perfect soundtrack to a state-allowed daily jog. (Don’t miss Lipa’s cheeky workout video for the song on YouTube.)
Listen to Eric Webb and Austin360 Radio’s Amy Edwards talk about pop culture obsessions:
Lipa’s musical mood board elsewhere pins the best tastes of 1990s techno, ABBA gold, "Your Woman" by White Town and early-2000s Lily Allen-style camp. Nowhere to be found: an empty lyric farmed from an Instagram caption. The singer clocks a writing credit on every track (with many collaborators), and lines like "I can't teach a man how to wear his pants" drip self-possession amid otherwise shiny, reflective pop verses.
My favorite moment on the album is the synthy rubber-band snap of "Cool," a dizzy ode to the first blush of inconvenient love. The internet has marshaled behind "Levitating," a syncopated starship cruise through deep space that sounds like locking eyes with a hottie under the cover of a dance floor fog machine: "Glitter in the sky, glitter in our eyes."
The couch is the club now, the shower the fog machine.
Outside, there’s death, and inside, there’s anxiety.
Some powerful folks who are supposed to look out for us just aren’t. I hope that's not too overwrought. It doesn’t feel like it is.
Pop music has always given us little secrets to share with each other, and until we can feel the thrum of a good night out, it helps to make the nights in a little easier. As Lipa sings on "Levitate," "If you're feeling like you need a little bit of company/You met me at the perfect time."
Nothing is too small to help, too frothy to give you courage. Count it all joy.
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