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With 'Future Nostalgia,' Dua Lipa Reminds Us How To Feel Care-Free


This is FRESH AIR. Rock critic Ken Tucker has a review of a new album he describes as at once a throwback to disco of the '70s and '80s but also something fresh and much needed. It's Dua Lipa's second album called "Future Nostalgia." She's the daughter of Albanian immigrants, raised in England. She won a best new artist Grammy last year. And Ken says her artistry has only become more impressive on this new release.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Future. Future nostalgia. Future nostalgia. Future nostalgia.

DUA LIPA: (Singing) You want a timeless song. I want to change the game. Like modern architecture, John Lautner coming your way. I know you like this beat 'cause Jeff's been doing the damn thing. You wanna turn it up loud. "Future Nostalgia" is the name. I know you're dying trying to figure me out. My name's on the tip of your tongue, keep running your mouth. You want the recipe but can't my sound, my sound...

KEN TUCKER, BYLINE: Dua Lipa says she had the title "Future Nostalgia" before she had a clear idea of what her new album would be. The phrase was meant to describe a future of infinite possibilities while tapping into the sound and mood of some older music she loved. What resulted is a collection of very smart, snappy disco compositions that immediately stands out from nearly all current popular music for its sheer bursting joyfulness. For example, I love the crisp authority that runs beneath the dance-floor theatrics of this song called "Levitating."


DUA LIPA: (Singing) If you want to run away with me, I know a galaxy, and I could take you for a ride. I had a premonition that we fell into a rhythm where the music don't stop for life. Glitter in the sky, glitter in my eye, shining just the way I like. If you're feeling like you need a little bit of company, you met me at the perfect time. You want me. I want you, baby. My sugar boo. I'm levitating. The Milky Way, we're renegading. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I got you. Moonlight. You're my starlight. I need you all night. Come on. Dance with me. I'm levitating You, moonlight...

TUCKER: Dua Lipa is only 24, and thus she's experiencing nostalgia for a time - the late '70s and early '80s - that precedes her birth. In some of her vocals, you can hear Madonna in her "Like A Virgin" period. At other times, I detect the low growl of Donna Summer. The guitars and keyboards are sometimes strongly reminiscent of the great disco band Chic. And I would say that Dua Lipa is a much better singer than Olivia Newton John, even as she winks at a certain 1981 hit on this new song "Physical."


DUA LIPA: (Singing) Common love isn't for us. We created something phenomenal. Don't you agree? Don't you agree? You've got me feeling diamond rich. Nothing on this planet compares to it. Don't you agree? Don't you agree? Who needs to go to sleep when I've got you next to me? All night, I'll riot with you. I know you've got my back, and you know I've got you. Some come on. Come on. Come on. Let's get physical. Lights out...

TUCKER: Much of the vintage disco Dua Lipa is saluting on this album was released in the midst of the AIDS epidemic. Although Lipa recorded her new songs before COVID-19 began shutting down the world, the mood she sustains here - persistence and pleasure placed in opposition to defeat and despair - is both true to its disco roots and also remarkably timely.


DUA LIPA: (Singing) Pocket full of honey and I'm ready to go. No, I ain't got no money, but I'm letting you know that I'm going to love you like a fool, breathe you in until I hallucinate. Body make you silly, make you do what I want. Oh, baby, I can make it pretty. I can string you along. But I'm going to love you like a fool, breathe you in until I hallucinate. No, I couldn't...

TUCKER: During this time of distancing and anxiety, I sometimes find it difficult to apply the kind of intense listening I normally do in order to write and talk about music. As I go about my days, I've been drawn to instrumental music - jazz mostly and Thelonious Monk's piano in particular, but also lots of rhythm-based pop music, George Clinton's P-Funk, Washington D.C. go-go music from the '80s and a lot of disco. So it's no wonder Dua Lipa's new album caught my attention. It gave me a focus I needed. I'm grateful for that, just as I think a lot of listeners are grateful for Dua Lipa's reminder of how carefree we once were and may be yet again.

GROSS: Rock critic Ken Tucker reviewed the new album "Future Nostalgia" by Dua Lipa.

The pandemic isn't the end of the world, but your anxiety about the virus may make you feel like it is, and your home may be starting to feel like a bunker. Tomorrow on FRESH AIR, my guest will be Mark O'Connell author of the new book "Notes From An Apocalypse." It's about people who are preparing for the end of the world as we know it as a result of a pandemic, environmental catastrophe, nuclear war, comet crash and how they plan on surviving. It's also a book about anxiety. I hope you'll join us.


DUA LIPA: (Singing) Somewhere in the middle, I think I lied a little, I...

GROSS: FRESH AIR's executive producer is Danny Miller. Our technical director and engineer is Audrey Bentham. Our interviews and reviews are produced and edited by Amy Salit, Phyllis Myers, Sam Briger, Lauren Krenzel, Heidi Saman, Therese Madden, Mooj Zadie, Thea Chaloner and Seth Kelley. Our associate producer of digital media is Molly Seavy-Nesper. Roberta Shorrock directs the show. I'm Terry Gross.


DUA LIPA: (Singing) When my mind is running wild, could you help me slow it down? Put my mind at ease, pretty please. I need your hands on me. Sweet relief, pretty please. Exactly where I want me, yeah, underneath your body, yeah. If we take it further, I swear I ain't going to break. So, baby, come try me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ken Tucker reviews rock, country, hip-hop and pop music for Fresh Air. He is a cultural critic who has been the editor-at-large at Entertainment Weekly, and a film critic for New York Magazine. His work has won two National Magazine Awards and two ASCAP-Deems Taylor Awards. He has written book reviews for The New York Times Book Review and other publications.