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‘Future Nostalgia’: Why Even COVID Couldn’t Stop Dua Lipa’s Breakthrough
Warner Music
In Depth

‘Future Nostalgia’: Why Even COVID Couldn’t Stop Dua Lipa’s Breakthrough

Released as the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the world, Dua Lipa’s second album, ‘Future Nostalgia’, set the scene for better times ahead.

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“I’m really proud of this record because I feel like I found my [footing] as an artist and as a songwriter,” Dua Lipa said of her 2020 modern classic, Future Nostalgia. “I really wrote things that I absolutely love. It’s definitely a milestone for me in my career.”

However, the timing of Future Nostalgia was incredibly unlucky. The album’s release came at exactly the same time as the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe, and the album – whose songs celebrated dancing and club culture – went out into a world that was now barred from living those joys. It meant that Future Nostalgia was heard differently than Dua Lipa had intended, but the album gained a different kind of power; carried a hope for a time when, as the song Physical put it, we could “keep on dancing like you ain’t got a choice”.

Listen to ‘Future Nostalgia’ here.

Why is Dua Lipa’s album called ‘Future Nostalgia’?

“I wanted to do something that felt fresh and new, something that touched on a memory, something that always rings so true to me, especially in my childhood,” Dua Lipa said of Future Nostalgia’s roots, explaining why she gave the album that name. “To be able to recreate that in a modern way was an absolute dream for me. I’m so happy that I stood by and honed in on that sound that I love.”

Lipa’s strong vision for the album was all over its lead single, Don’t Start Now. The song almost sounds neon: inspired by both the original floorfillers of the late 70s and the later nu-disco acts such as Daft Punk, Don’t Start Now was written by Lipa alongside the same team who made her earlier smash New Rules. “But I didn’t want to recreate what had already happened,” Lipa said in 2020, at the time of the single’s release. “I wanted to grow and change it up.”

How many songs did Dua Lipa write for ‘Future Nostalgia’?

Dua Lipa co-wrote all 11 songs on Future Nostalgia, collaborating with a range of writers and producers including Jeff Bhasker, Ian Kirkpatrick, Koz and Stuart Price (who worked on Madonna’s 2005 tribute to club culture, Confessions On A Dance Floor, and produced a trio of Pet Shop Boys albums: Electric, Super and Hotspot).

“It really is relentless in terms of the dance and fun element,” Lipa said of Future Nostalgia around the time of the album’s release. “I’ve been describing it as a ‘dancercise class’ all the way through. That’s what you’re in for. Expect to burn calories!”

Hallucinate, the album’s fourth single, was a particular favourite of Lipa’s. “I love the song,” she told Capitol FM, revealing that, as she was writing it, she really could imagine performing it live. “It makes me feel happy and excited, and makes me wanna dance,” she said.

When did ‘Future Nostalgia’ come out?

Future Nostalgia was actually released a week earlier than planned. The combination of the uncertainty around COVID-19 – the first UK lockdown came into effect on 26 March 2020 – and an unauthorised leak led Lipa to announce the album on 23 March that year, when performing on Instagram Live.

“In all these kinds of situations… we all need to actively work together to make a change,” Lipa said, in what was clearly an emotional moment. “What I’m going to do is, instead of my album coming out April 3rd, my album is actually coming out this Friday, March 27th, which I’m really excited about.”

Why is ‘Future Nostalgia’ so good?

The timing of Future Nostalgia’s release meant people were hearing this gorgeously optimistic album when times were anything but. Yet the positivity of the songs, and their messages of self-esteem and pride, helped many during the uncertain times of COVID-19. The album’s release also led to Lipa gaining the nickname “Quarantine Queen” (“It’s an odd title to have, for sure,” she said).

Containing many of the best Dua Lipa songs to date – among them Physical, Levitating and the title track – Future Nostalgia achieved universally positive reviews and was recognised at numerous award ceremonies. The album won the 2021 BRIT Award for British Album Of The Year, with further nominations at the Grammys, and for the Mercury Music Prize.

Is the ‘Future Nostalgia’ era over?

For a while, Dua Lipa continued the Future Nostalgia era. COVID-19 was still raging, and Lipa has she “had what felt like all the time in the world” to create her next project, Club Future Nostalgia, which remixed and reimagined Future Nostalgia’s tracks.

The Blessed Madonna was Club Future Nostalgia’s executive producer and the lead remixer on Levitating and Love Is Religion. Other remixes were handled by a suite of superstar producers, including Jacques Lu Cont and Mark Ronson. Lipa also brought in other famous names to collaborate on the tracks, including Madonna, Missy Elliott, Gwen Stefani and BLACKPINK. Many of these collaborations were a dream come true for Lipa: she has said that, when working with Stefani, she “was jumping around like a five-year-old. I was so excited,” and that, when Madonna agreed to be on Levitating, “I was over the moon.”

But further COVID-19 lockdowns meant that a planned Future Nostalgia tour was postponed several times. It eventually began in February 2022, nearly two years after the album was first released. The forced hiatus made the performances even sweeter for Lipa. “When I was writing Future Nostalgia, I imagined the songs being played in clubs on nights out with your mates,” she said. “I’m so excited that this fantasy is finally coming true.”

But now, the Future Nostalgia era is over. Dua Lipa released a fresh single, Houdini, in November 2023, and her fourth album, Radical Optimism, is due for release on 3 May. She has said that Future Nostalgia’s follow-up is “a bit more raw”, explaining, “I want to capture the essence of youth and freedom and having fun and just letting things happen, whether it’s good or bad. You can’t change it. You just have to roll with the punches of whatever’s happening in your life.”

Find out which ‘Future Nostalgia’ tracks rang among the best Dua Lipa songs.

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