Spare a thought for Dua Lipa. Hailed as the next big thing what seems like an age ago in pop terms, and almost becoming yet another victim of UK labels’ complete inability to manage fledgling female pop trajectories. With a self-titled album that’s been delayed about 325 times at last count, the preternaturally gifted singer now has that unfortunate question to contend with: will anyone still care?
Well, if they don’t they ought to. While Dua Lipa might not have had the simple journey to stardom that we wanted her to, she’s certainly planted enough flags along the way for us to accept the fact that she can deliver on every front. She can give us radio-ready anthems in Blow Your Mind (Mwah), she can spice it up with Hotter Than Hell, and when everything fires perfectly on all cylinders, she can deliver a modern pop masterpiece in the form of Be The One.
If that’s what Dua Lipa was riding on the back of, there might not be so much trouble here with the inconsistent remainder. For instance, what need is there to beef up the distinctly pedestrian jam Lost In Your Light with a redundant Miguel? Did people feel like there was some star power missing? That Dua Lipa needs a watery companion – that too a male one – because she can’t boss it all on her own? It seems insulting on several fronts, not to mention dragging her down as early as track two.
For any other newcomer, that might be game over. But for Dua Lipa, what shines more than anything is this brilliantly headstrong voice that feels like it can smash barriers with its confidence. On Genesis she twirls around a light tribal drum for her biblical references (repeated with diminishing returns on Garden) for pop that matches her capability; and while musically there are no great detours from what’s acceptable these days (acoustic track Thinking ‘Bout You? Check) there are still big moments as she cuts loose on the bat-shit, undoubtedly Marmite-flavoured New Rules. It might not work, but its skewed and squelchy production makes a welcome change from all the box-ticking.
If anyone at the label had sense (hah), they’d realise that Dua Lipa is a pop torpedo that could see an entire stadium turn out to help her go stratospheric. Instead, much like her entire campaign, they’ve taken the wind out of her sails – which resonates in her voice on songs like Begging, a tired song that feels like everyone would rather be somewhere else – and administered an unfair ballad-heavy tranquiliser to that husky powerhouse.
Ironically, it’s an anthem called IDGAF that stands head and shoulders above the rest, a huge handclap anthem that positions Dua Lipa as the forefront of modern UK pop. If only she’d applied that carefree statement to everything going on around her she might have hit her target a lot damn quicker, but for now we fear it might be the mainstream audience who ignore her talent and just don’t give a fuck.