In a time where the fate of up-and-coming pop artists is pretty much determined by streams numbers and different kinds of PR/Social Media schemes, and album roll-outs are difficult even for well-established music figures, we can understand why it took British-Albanian singer Dua Lipa so long to release her debut album. She’s spent the last 18 months building expectation via some incredible singles and interesting collaborations; the original September 2016 release date was twice delayed, presumably to include new features — Miguel on “Lost In Your Light” and Chris Martin on the piano-ballad “Homesick” –, but the wait has definitely paid off.
Dua Lipa’s chronological batting average is one of the best in today’s pop. From the breezy, almost Haim-like playfulness of “Be the One”, to the sun-kissed synths of her most recent joint “New Rules”, her ascent has been slow but very solid. She released a total 10 tracks during this period, and seven of them are included here. That might have led to a dull, predictable record, but Dua still kept some pleasant surprises under her sleeve.
Opening track “Genesis”, for example, stands out because it serves as a perfect introduction to Dua’s style — a percussive, spacious beat, verses with a tight flow and choruses that are strong but never overwhelming. “IDGAF”’s post-breakup snark is a welcome breath of fresh air among the batch of singles, and “Garden” offers a glimpse of possible new sonic territories for her to explore. But of course, it’s the bangers where she shines the most. Trop-house numbers like “Hotter than Hell”, “Begging” and “Dreams” show her tremendous command of the quiet/loud dynamic, and the massive “Blow Your Mind (Mwah)” remains the most exciting three minutes in Dua Lipa’s career so far, an irresistible nu-disco smash performed with the sass and the confidence of a long-standing diva.
Throughout 17 tracks — 12 for the original release, plus 5 tracks for the deluxe edition — the album showcases Dua Lipa’s most fundamental strength: the uniqueness of her voice. It all comes down to the way her husky, raspy tone moves through the instrumentals, injecting stamina in some and downright providing a whole new dimension to others. And yet, having such a distinct, specific timbre does not preclude her from having a considerable musical range.
Records this long usually have tracks that feel like filler, and this one is certainly not free from that, but Dua Lipa manages to be quite consistent, and most surprisingly for an album composed of singles that span almost two years, it’s very cohesive. Many of us questioned the big delay, but the June release makes more sense than September or February. It’s a great summer record.