Album Review

Dua Lipa - Radical Optimism

Plenty of sun-drenched sonic optimism, but not so much that’s all that radical.

Dua Lipa - Radical Optimism

When the internet collectively dubbed Dua Lipa their ‘vacanza queen’ after her predilection for a frequent holiday jaunt, what they didn’t realise was that, by soaking up the languorous Ibizan sun and flirty poolside vibes, the pop megastar was actually laying some important groundwork. Where 2020’s global smash ‘Future Nostalgia’ concocted an ‘80s-meets-disco fantasia of giddy pop genius, not so much levelling up the singer from her slightly patchy debut as launching her into a whole different league of top tier excellence, on ‘Radical Optimism’ Dua has plugged in her musical GPS and headed off with the sunscreen in hand. ‘Training Season’ is over, and the OOO reply is set to ‘continental beach break’.

Having assembled a crack team of synth wizards and maestros of balmy euphoria around her, you can see how ‘Radical Optimism’’s musical language has come into being. Credited throughout are Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, sepia-tinged singer turned songwriter to the stars (Adele, Miley and Harry among them) Tobias Jesso Jr, and PC Music graduate Danny L Harle. Packed with light, deft production and the sort of fluttering melodies built for playing out in the heat of the midday sun, you can see the fingerprints of each in the effervescent climax of ‘Houdini’, the breezy soft rock second half of ‘Anything for Love’, or ‘Training Season’’s vibrant dancefloor pulse respectively.

There’s an ease to the whole thing that tallies with teaser photos posted from the writing room that look more like a bunch of mates shooting the shit than a hardcore pop bootcamp. Indeed, from the “One, two, three, wheyyyyy” group cheer of opener ‘End of an Era’, it’s like ‘Radical Optimism’ has thrown open the garden gate into its summer party to let everyone in: a potentially unexpected tone-setter for the record, given the headier throb of the singles released so far.

Contextualised among the lighter moments of sugary pop number ‘These Walls’ or the Spanish guitar-centred ‘French Exit’, those previously-dropped tracks (‘Houdini’, ‘Training Season’ and ‘Illusion’) make sense as the more headstrong, after-hours end of an album wholly centred around tumultuous affairs of the heart. But, whilst bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better, there is a lingering sense that Dua’s played her main cards already. Where almost every song from ‘Future Nostalgia’ ended up as a single, you can’t imagine the same happening here. Aside from the aforementioned ‘End of an Era’, or the slinking bass line of ‘Whatcha Doing’, it’s hard to picture the rest of these songs kicking off atop Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage quite like their predecessors (although props must go to the bonkers ‘Falling Forever’ - a truly extra cut that could find a second home at the Eurovision if Worthy Farm doesn’t work out).

In some ways, ‘Radical Optimism’ is a victim of the astronomically high bar that Dua set for herself on LP2 - an album that reigned supreme both critically and commercially, earning her a GRAMMY win and a Mercury nod as well as sky high streaming numbers across the board. There are tracks here that can compete - ‘Training Season’ in particular - but there are also ideas that feel lacking. ‘Anything for Love’ starts off strong but ends like a half-finished demo, while lyrically every song is about love and lovers; hearts aching and breaking.

Dua Lipa remains one of the UK’s best pop stars; you only need to watch her gravity-defying man tower at this year’s BRITs to see that. But on her hugely-anticipated third, there’s plenty of sun-drenched sonic optimism but not so much that’s all that radical.

Tags: Dua Lipa, Reviews, Album Reviews

Latest Reviews

Read More

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Stay Updated!

Get the best of DIY to your inbox each week.

Latest Issue

May 2024

With Rachel Chinouriri, A.G. Cook, Yannis Philippakis, Wasia Project and more!

Read Now Buy Now Subscribe to DIY