The rise and rise of Dua Lipa - from 'New Love' to headlining Glastonbury 2024

Festivals The rise and rise of Dua Lipa

Ahead of her turn atop Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage and her massive upcoming festival slots, we dive into how Dua became a pop juggernaut worthy of the world’s biggest stage.

Over the past decade, Dua Lipa has gone from breakthrough buzzy name to bona fide global megastar. This weekend, she’s set to tick off what is arguably THE most coveted item on any artist’s career bucket-list - headlining Glastonbury Festival’s Pyramid Stage in front of a tens of thousands-strong crowd. But how did she get here? Let’s get (future) nostalgic…

Dua Lipa

It’s hard to imagine a chart without Dua Lipa in it, but in reality it’s been less than a decade since the Albanian and English singer-songwriter first burst onto our airwaves. Back in 2017, amidst a male-dominated UK Top 40, her debut, self-titled LP ‘Dua Lipa’ stormed its way to into the upper echelons of radio pop, and its impact still remains tangible - from a singing-in-cursive cadence to its affinity for lush power-pop.

Signed early by Warner Bros Records in 2014, the run-up to Dua’s debut was stuffed with massive radio hits. Her first entry, 2015’s ‘New Love’, drew relatively significant attention, but it was second release ‘Be the One’ that hit the ground running, its soft tropical sound signposting a move to the mainstream for dream-pop. Later, the diversity of sound across 2016’s dark power-pop banger ‘Hotter Than Hell’ and saccharine electro-pop hit ‘Blow Your Mind (Mwah)’ dominated UK charts (not to mention any given Topshop/ River Island/ Urban Outfitters store playlist), and an early-days slot at that year’s Glastonbury Festival saw her draw in fans of both commercial and more left-field pop in their masses. “Her voice was addictive,” explains mega-fan Stori, better known as Dua Lipa News (@dlipanews) on X/Twitter: “She had such a different sound.”

By the time her self-titled debut hit shelves in 2017, packed with near-back-to-back dance-pop and RnB-influenced cuts, Dua had already cemented her status as mainstream pop’s new Big Name On Campus. And no track better illustrated this incoming breakneck ascension than ‘New Rules’: a massive and unforgettable tropical house track that captured the essence of influencer-esque female empowerment, and pushed Dua’s commercial success to global heights. A second invitation to Worthy Farm in June 2017 soon followed.

Despite this numerical success, however, the feedback wasn’t all gushing. “I love her lack of energy, go girl give us nothing,” one user (in)famously commented on a YouTube clip of Dua’s 2018 BRIT Awards performance - a response to the singer’s awkward dancing that became a notable part of both online fandom lexicon and the record’s legacy. Trolls further rebuked a Best New Artist win at the 2019 Grammy Awards, doubling down on her ostensible lack of stage presence and citing her apparent lack of potential longevity. “Those things were hurtful. It was humiliating,” she told The Guardian in 2024. “People were picking everything apart that I’d been working on. In the public eye, I was figuring out who I was as an artist, as a performer.”

A step away from social media later and a motivating fire lit underneath her, the acclaim for ‘Dua Lipa’ (coupled with her time at the mercy of the internet’s often-vicious online discourse) placed high expectations on the singer for her next release - expectations that only a powerhouse sophomore concept record could meet. (Otis Robinson)

Future Nostalgia

Fast forward to January 2019, when Dua first revealed that she’d spent the past year working on her second album, describing it as a nostalgic record that “feels like a dancercise class”. First came ‘Don’t Start Now’ - released later that year, the huge single added elements of disco and funk to the star’s dance-pop sound, instantly garnering renewed acclaim from both commercial and critical sides. ‘Physical’ arrived next, complete with an ’80s, Flashdance-inspired aesthetic, after which the hits just kept on coming: ‘Break My Heart’, ‘Hallucinate’, and the space-rock highlight ‘Levitating’.

Wanting to keep the mainstream pop feel of her debut, but with the addition of contemporary electronic production and more live elements, Dua took inspiration for her sophomore effort from the likes of Madonna, Kylie, Gwen Stefani and Blondie. The result? ‘Future Nostalgia’. An instant hit that found critics heaping praise upon the ways in which it advanced the star’s sound, Dua’s second reached the Top Ten in a whopping 31 countries (and Number One in an equally impressive 15).

‘Future Nostalgia’ won British Album of the Year at the 2021 BRITs and Best Pop Vocal Album at that year’s Grammys, but its legacy is also inextricably linked to the pandemic; landing just as the world shut down in March 2020, its buoyant, disco-infused tracks offered a sense of much-needed escapism from the bleak reality of Covid. The LP’s postponed-until-2022 world tour also meant that this era of Dua Lipa extended beyond what she had perhaps ever anticipated, but the songs weren’t left to go stale. 2021’s ‘The Moonlight Edition’ reissue featured even more for fans to sink their teeth into, including the house-infused ‘Fever’ (featuring Belgian singer Angèle), the glam-disco-punk of Miley Cyrus collab ‘Prisoner’, and the tropical pop hit ‘We’re Good’.

In a way, the pandemic’s strange delays may have helped ‘Future Nostalgia”s longevity. Four years on, it still feels fresh, its impact then helping to spearhead the disco revival that’s dominated the charts since: Kylie Minogue has gone back to her disco roots, while the likes of Lady Gaga and Jessie Ware have since experimented with the genre too.

Most artists will never have an album like ‘Future Nostalgia’, but then Dua Lipa isn’t like most artists. With her second, she elevated herself into a class of pop stars that’s truly elite. (Adam England)

Radical Optimism

After archiving all her Instagram posts back in October ‘23, Dua Lipa ushered in her third and latest era with a yet another new start. Launched via the public debut of her now iconic cherry red hair - accompanied by a caption inquiring whether fans had missed her - the move came four years after the release of ‘Future Nostalgia’, leaving fans eagerly speculating about what she had in store.

What followed was the announcement of ‘Radical Optimism’ - an album described by Dua herself as embracing “1970’s psychedelia”, and introduced by its huge first single ‘Houdini’. Reaching the Number One spot in Europe, peaking at Number Two in the UK, and holding the pole position on the Billboard Dance Charts for 17 consecutive weeks, the track showcased a grittier sound to her previous work, incorporating ’80s-inspired synth work that pays its dues to producer Kevin Parker and lyrically questions the wisdom of engaging in a game of romantic cat-and-mouse.

After ‘Houdini’, follow-up banger ‘Training Season’ was the next earworm to burrow into our collective brains. Dancing along with a powerful disco beat that feels reminiscent of some of ABBA’s biggest tracks, the single presented Dua on a quest for the right partner, articulating her romantic requirements and expressing her frustration at being mistreated by those who under-appreciate her.

Exuding the essence of summer in musical form, the entirety of ‘Radical Optimism’ encompasses a sense of bliss and tranquility; with captivating melodies and an uplifting atmosphere, it’s an album that has the power to instantly transport listeners to a carefree holiday mindset. Though her third LP was met with an arguably more lukewarm reception than its predecessor, it nevertheless served the purpose of heightening what was already significant anticipation for this year’s Glastonbury Festival. And as she takes to the Pyramid Stage to headline Worthy Farm this weekend, it’s clear that, with ‘Radical Optimism’, Dua Lipa is ready to create a musical oasis - no matter what the unpredictable weather conditions have in store. (Katie Macbeth)

Dua Lipa plays Open’er 2024 (3rd - 6th July), Mad Cool 2024 (10th - 13th July) and NOS Alive (11th-13th July), all where DIY is an official media partner. Tickets are on sale now. Visit diymag.com/festivals for more information.

Tags: Dua Lipa, Glastonbury, Festivals, Features

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