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Dua Lipa
Dua LipaPhotography Hugo Comte

Dua Lipa on being a pop star soundtracking self-isolation

We catch up with the musician from lockdown on Future Nostalgia, the pressures of pop, and harnessing the power of the full moon

Wherever you are in the world, you’re probably in the same boat as everyone else: in isolation, making banana bread, playing Animal Crossing, and dying or shaving your head out of pure boredom. That’s certainly the case for a new, peach-hued Dua Lipa, who is currently isolating with her boyfriend in London while simultaneously promoting her very good new album Future Nostalgia

The release follows up to Lipa’s self-titled debut album from 2017 and does exactly what is says on the tin – it takes inspiration from nostalgic styles, mainly dancey disco sounds, and reimagines them as 2020 bops. Increasingly irresistible from track to track, Lipa dances through love, heartbreak, and make-up sex effortlessly. “I wanted to take on the disco side of nostalgia and embellish on that with different sounds, while not making it too electronic,” she tells us. “It was about trying to find a middle ground between the two.” 

On debut single “Physical”, the singer nods to Olivia Newton-John, Bonnie Tyler, and the darker end of Italo disco while urgently chanting, “Come on / Let’s get physical!” at the end of each chorus. It’s an infectious track that you can imagine will have everyone running to the club’s dancefloor post-lockdown. Listening to “Levitating”, it’s hard not to envision the singer as the dancing queen, her sultry tones turning into a Debbie Harry-esque spoken-rap with a promise to “dance my ass off”.

That’s the running thread throughout Future Nostalgia, a dare to the listener to resist dancing their ass off. Unsurprising then, that several of the album’s tracks have been snatched up already by TikTok, a breeding ground for viral dance challenges. It’s a bold move for a singer who was memed within an inch of her life for her supposed lack of dancing coordination – not that it bothers her. “I’ve seen so many funny memes (about it),” she says. “Those things have really made my life.” 

Here, we speak with Lipa about life in isolation, nostalgic sounds, and finding her feet. 

This feels like an odd thing to say, but Future Nostalgia has been the soundtrack to my isolation and helping me get through being away from my friends and the things that I enjoy. Was that your hope when you released it?

Dua Lipa: Oh, thank you! I’m happy to hear that because obviously I was a bit scared about putting music out this time, but I’m happy that I did. To hear that is kind of all I could ever want to hear to be honest, to give somebody some comfort, or take their mind off what we’re going through right now. So I truly appreciate that. Thank you.

What have you been listening to while you’ve been in isolation? 

Dua Lipa: I’ve been listening a lot to the Gorillaz, that’s one of those bands that I’ve been playing non-stop. The album Demon Days is such a good record, and it still feels good and fun. I’ve been diving into SBTRKT’s self-titled album as well, especially listening to songs like “Wildfire” and “Trials of the Past”. That was when I discovered Sampha for the first time, and it’s those kinds of songs that I’ve been playing at home.

What has it been like trying to promote the album without leaving your house? You’ve done a couple of chat show performances via Zoom, how does that differ from an IRL performance?

Dua Lipa: It’s quite a lot of work, just ordering the green screens and trying to stick them onto the wall, then they don’t stick to the wall and you’ve got layers of sticky tape on it. It’s crazy, but it’s an experience and it’s fun to do and the end result comes out really fun. 

Everybody knows that we’re all doing this from home, so it’s just about making something a bit silly, but also showing the normality of it. I’m doing it from my sofa, trying to do this on Jimmy Fallon, so it’s just about the reality of what it is right now and you try and make the most of what you have, showing that you’ve not only been laying on your sofa watching TV shows.

“Human contact is something that I miss a lot at the moment... I really hope the album will help people take your mind off what’s going on” – Dua Lipa

Have you felt pressure to put your creativity elsewhere since you’re not as busy as you’d usually be? 

Dua Lipa: For me, this moment is really about trying to focus on how to utilise this flat and turn it into a home studio to be able to create performances and stuff for like TV shows, so that I can still promote my record, and try to make interesting and fun performances from home. I haven’t really pressured myself to find a new skill or get really good at something before I get out and I think that’s okay. 

A lot of people are maybe putting pressure on themselves to come out of quarantine with a super skill. That’s pretty anxiety-inducing and it’s not ideal considering what we’re already going through. It’s quite a crazy experience that we are experiencing collectively, something that involves people all around the world. We have to be a little bit more kind to ourselves and not think that we have to be Einstein during this time.

How does it feel now that Future Nostalgia is finally out? 

Dua Lipa: It’s crazy but also really exciting and fun for sure. I’m happy that people have responded the way that they have. I don’t know how to explain it really, it’s cool! I still feel a bit overwhelmed with all the views and everything, but it’s definitely a good feeling. People’s energy and funny reactions online have definitely brightened up my day.

What was the inspiration for the album? Why nostalgia?

Dua Lipa: The album is essentially about the happy memories that I have from my parents and the music that they listen to while I was growing up. That really inspired this whole record and I wanted to embellish on that feeling, those emotions, and on that music that made me feel so happy and turn it into something that’s modern and fashionable. It’s essentially about new memories with that same kind of genre.

Who did you grow up listening to that inspired the album? 

Dua Lipa: It was Gwen Stefani, Blondie, Moloko, Jamiroquai… there were so many. I mean obviously they listened to British rock, but it was kind of those songs that always got everybody in the house singing along, and even if I didn’t know the words, I would just make them up just because my parents loved them so much that it would just be so exciting.

Is there a lyric from the album that you’re proud of writing?

Dua Lipa: I feel that lots of different songs hold a different meaning to me, but “Break My Heart” is a very special one for me. On “Love Again” where it goes: “I can’t believe / I finally found someone / I’ll sink my teeth in disbelief / because you’re the one that I want.” That whole feeling of something that’s so close to you that you can almost taste it and disbelief being the flavour is quite interesting to me. 

It was interesting to try to put that in a song but also the positivity that comes from it, for example when I say: “I don’t wanna live another life because this one’s pretty nice” on “Physical” I just like the emotion that comes with that. I’m obviously so proud of all of these songs and I really feel like I’ve tried to find my feet with this album.

“People are maybe putting pressure on themselves to come out of quarantine with a super skill. That’s pretty anxiety-inducing” – Dua Lipa

How does it feel being more confident in your creativity and music?

Dua Lipa: It’s really liberating because now I know how to set myself in the studio. I don’t feel like I have to go in and try to impress people on a day when I maybe can’t do it right. When I started writing my records, I felt like I was working with so many new people. I also wanted to prove to people that I write all my own stuff. I felt like I was going into sessions constantly trying to prove myself. Whereas this time around, I was a lot gentler and easier towards myself. I didn’t feel like I needed to impress anyone or show them my skills or what I can do; if I was having a day that I couldn’t right, that was okay. It was just a much easier process as a whole.

Do you think that’s gonna have an impact on you working on music in the future as well?

Dua Lipa: I feel like I’m only now getting started. Learning new kinds of lessons over the past three years and getting to make something like this made me excited to grow and to learn more. With every song that I make, I learn a little bit more. I’ve grown so much in the process of writing and, of course, everything just takes time.

I still have some songs that I am yet to put out that I’m really excited about and who knows where the next record will take me. I do find that it’s always something from the previous record that leads me into the next one. This album draws from songs like “Genesis”, “One Kiss”, or “Electricity”. All these songs from my first record really kind of helped me create this new one because that’s where I felt comfortable in wanting to create my own thing. So, we’ll see what happens with the next album.

Are you a spiritual person?

Dua Lipa: Yeah, I am. I believe in fate and in doing good things, but also that some things happen for a reason and that there are different kinds of energies that you put out and things that you manifest. I believe in the power of the moon and stars and the magic that the world has.

There was a super pink moon recently, so lots of people were saying that they were having very strange dreams. Did that happen to you?

Dua Lipa: I often have crazy dreams when Mercury’s in retrograde and everything is a little bit unsettling but sometimes the full moon makes people go crazy. Sometimes it makes me go crazy as well, but for me, this super moon was very calming, and especially during a time like this it’s been really helpful.

What are you looking forward to once we’re out of isolation? 

Dua Lipa: I’m really, really looking forward to getting back on the road and seeing all my friends as well. Human contact is something that I miss a lot at the moment. Considering the times we’re going through, I really hope the album will help people take your mind off what’s going on, that’s all I can hope for now. I hope it will bring some light, happiness, and comfort.