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Dua Lipa - Radical Optimism (Album Review)

Tuesday, 07 May 2024 Written by Adam England

Photo: Tyrone Lebon

In 2020, ‘Future Nostalgia’ propelled Dua Lipa into the pop stratosphere. Adored by critics and fans alike, the album’s retro sheen and irresistible dancefloor appeal became a lockdown panacea. Four years later, its successor ‘Radical Optimism’ joins a small trend set by pop stars who followed up acclaimed records with lighter, more optimistic work. Think Lorde answering ‘Melodrama’ with ‘Solar Power’ or Miley Cyrus serving up ‘Endless Summer Vacation’ after ‘Plastic Hearts’.

For the most part, the nu-disco of ‘Future Nostalgia’ has been swapped out for a Mediterranean vibe, from Balearic guitars to French house. It works, to a point, but it doesn’t hold the attention like so much of Lipa’s previous output did. Ultimately, it feels like a classic case of style over substance. 

It’s almost impressive to have worked with arch stylists such as Danny L Harle and Kevin Parker and come up with something as formless as this. It’s not so much a tribute to psychedelia and UK rave culture, as Lipa described it, as it is a rekindling of Eurodance. 

The singles — Houdini, Training Season and Illusion — are among the strongest tracks here, melding the disco of the ‘Future Nostalgia’ era with sunshine pop and electronic psych.

Falling Forever operates at a similar level, its pulsating synths forming a backbone with rumbling drums taking centre stage in the chorus. Its finale has high-gloss, motivational ‘80s pop momentum on tap. End Of An Era, meanwhile, is an eye-catching opener with spoken word that conjures Marina’s ‘Electra Heart’ and an uplifting tone that feels fitting for an album coming out at the beginning of May. 

Anything For You starts off like it’ll be the obligatory ballad before speeding up, while tracks including Whatcha Doing and French Exit are pretty mellow. The same goes for the inoffensive but unimaginative These Walls. In truth, there’s more filler than you’d expect. Could every song here be a single? Can they all hold their own in the playlist age? Honestly, probably not. 

Following ‘Future Nostalgia’ was never going to be easy, and in some ways, Lipa is a victim of her own success. It’s not that ‘Radical Optimism’ is a bad album, but, as one of the world’s biggest pop stars, it’s hard not to shake the idea that she could and should have done better.

Dua Lipa Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Wed June 05 2024 - BERLIN Waldbuhne (Germany)
Sun June 09 2024 - PULA Arena (Croatia)
Wed June 12 2024 - NIMES Arena (France)
Thu June 13 2024 - NIMES Arena (France)
Thu July 04 2024 - GDYNIA Kosakowo Airport (Poland)
Wed July 10 2024 - MADRID New Madrid Festival Venue (Spain)
Fri July 12 2024 - LISBON Passeio Maritimo de Alges (Portugal)

Thu October 17 2024 - LONDON Royal Albert Hall

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