Effortlessly versatile, Dua Lipa's debut shines in softer pop as well as the spirited bangers she's known for.
It’s inconceivable that nearly two years have passed since Dua Lipa debuted ‘Be The One,’ a glittered synth-pop gem that sparkled brightly to gain recognition in an oversaturated market of pop queens and set her as forerunner on The Edge‘s List of 2016. I doubt my predecessors imagined it would take quite so long for Lipa’s self-titled debut to drop, but true to their recommendation, she’s kicked up quite a storm on the journey.
Let’s deal with a minor problem off the mark: we’ve heard too much of this album already. The four singles she’s used to conquer charts dominate the opening half of Dua Lipa – just like the problem faced by Zara Larsson mere weeks ago in So Good – and, although they’re all pleasant enough for a return trip, it’s instinctual to skip over them in favour of the new stuff. Alongside the aforementioned ‘Be The One,’ Lipa shines brightest on ‘Blow Your Mind (Mwah),’ which packs more punch than a professional boxer with its scathing rhetoric. Next to her understated bubblegum debut, ‘Mwah’ howls with confidence, responsible for pushing Lipa fully into the spotlight last summer. Its spiritual twin ‘Hotter Than Hell’ screams a similar self-assurance, while ‘Lost In Your Light’ – her Miguel-featuring current single – is more relaxed. Its bubbly tropical drumbeats are perfect for shimmering summer days, and it acts as a bridge between the more punchy pop Lipa is known for and the more understated new tracks that make up the rest of the album.
It’s refreshing to see Lipa refusing to buckle to the all-too-prevelent trend of putting a naff one first: the aptly-named ‘Genesis’ is a soulful and infectious introduction to the wonders of the London-born singer and might just be the best thing on the album. The spiky rebel within is out in full force in ‘IDGAF’ – yes, that is the acronym you think it is – but the MNEK-produced instrument driven track is more understated than either ‘Mwah’ or ‘Hotter Than Hell.’ Her howling on ‘Garden’ feels a little overdramatic, but it’s a solid track nonetheless. Competitor to ‘Genesis’ for the best new track is the emotional ‘No Goodbyes,’ produced by GRADES, which showcases Lipa’s effortlessly beautiful voice and captures the tragedy of love’s end.
The 12-track album begins to wind down with the sexy acoustic ‘Thinking ‘Bout You’ before ramping back up with the dizzying synth for ‘New Rules.’ If you’re not a Coldplay fan, you won’t like final track ‘Homesick’ – penned with Chris Martin and featuring his uncredited vocals, the subtle piano that opens it will fool you into thinking Spotify has unexpectedly shuffled you into A Head Full Of Dreams. If you can blame the album’s lengthy delay on the star-studded collaboration, I can say with confidence I’d rather we’d heard the record last October, but ultimately Lipa’s vocals are as pristine as ever and it is nice to end with a different side to her delivery.
It’s been a long two years since ‘Be The One’ – Brexit, Trump, snap elections, five questionable solo debuts from One Direction, The Chainsmokers and Coldplay – but Dua Lipa’s appeal has only grown along the road to her debut album. Her effortless versatility on Dua Lipa is a reflection of how strong her trademark rasping vocals are, showing she can shine in understated soft pop as well as screaming bangers. As far as I’m concerned, Dua Lipa is the one.
Dua Lipa is out now via Warner