Dua Lipa Is the Future of Pop: Inside the Making of Her New Album Future Nostalgia
"If I could make someone smile or give someone a moment of comfort during this time, then I've done my job," Lipa says of her sophomore album
Dua Lipa has cemented herself as a pop music mainstay with her near-perfect album Future Nostalgia.
The British pop star was preparing to drop the LP, her second, as the COVID-19 pandemic hit Europe and America. Rather than delaying new music like some peers, Lipa dropped the disco-tinged dance-pop record a week early on March 27 after it leaked online.
Lipa recently opened up to PEOPLE about the making of the album — and its impromptu rollout amid the pandemic — during a Zoom call from a London Airbnb, where she is social distancing with her boyfriend, Anwar Hadid.
She’s delivered joy in a dark time. Since the album’s early release, fans have been enjoying solo dance parties to the new music.
“We’re all just trying to be safe and stay inside and protect the people around us,” Lipa, 24, says in the new issue of PEOPLE. “If I could make someone smile or give someone a moment of comfort during this time, then I’ve done my job.”
Born in London to Albanian immigrants Dukagjin and Anesa, Lipa began performing at a young age. Her family returned to Kosovo when she was a child, but at age 15, she moved back to London to pursue a singing career. After years of hustling and finding a following on YouTube thanks to song covers, she scored a record deal.
In 2017, Lipa released her self-titled debut album, which spawned several hits internationally, including the smash “New Rules,” which broke her big in the U.S. And last year, she picked up two Grammys, including one for best new artist.
When she began to work on her sophomore effort, Lipa says she “of course” felt pressure to deliver with her follow-up.
“I was like, ‘Oh my God, I have to try and do something with the second record.’ But I wanted to get away from all those pressures and other people’s expectations and opinions of what I should be doing because I felt like then I would try and recreate ‘New Rules’ and never get anywhere,” she says. “I wanted to mature as an artist.”
Lipa started with the name, Future Nostalgia, and the rest fell into place from there.
“I wanted to touch on memories that I had growing up listening to music that my parents loved, like Jamiroquai and Blondie and Prince — and recreate them for now. It’s a celebration of being able to be open and vulnerable and to dance and be happy. Dance-crying is very much a thing,” she says. “I wanted to make sure that every session ended up with a dance-off basically in the studio and that everybody was feeling good.”
The funky disco track “Levitating” came first, and Lipa wanted the rest of the tracks that followed — including singles “Don’t Start Now” and “Physical” — to feel like a “family” in relation to its sound.
“That song really helped me explain to everyone else — my team and the producers and people that I was working with — like, ‘Okay, this is it …'” Lipa says. “I felt like had both elements of the future and nostalgia in it. I just started basing everything off of it. It had to fit in that world and that was the song.”
Lipa’s ambitious plans paid off. Future Nostalgia is an expertly curated, cohesive and timeless album that addresses love, loss, sex and the Time’s Up movement — and an early album of the year Grammy contender.
“It felt to me like something that wasn’t happening on the radio, and I wanted to try and do something different,” she says. “I felt a lot more confident going in and writing on this record. I knew exactly what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it.”