Dua Lipa
Radical Optimism

The world around us is quite brutal and ugly currently, so who couldn’t use a little optimism that things can and will get better? Dua Lipa has returned to the music world with a shimmering album titled Radical Optimism. With songwriting and producer credits from Kevin Parker of Tame Impala, plus other seasoned veterans like Danny Harle, Ian Kirkpatrick, and Andrew Wyatt, Dua Lipa comes well-armed for success. The album plays out quickly over the 11-song, 37-minute play time that is filled with thrilling moments, great vocal performances from Dua Lipa, as well as plenty new tricks to her arsenal. Radical Optimism is a heat-seeking missile to the eardrums and is bound to make even the most negative person feel a little bit better about their day after spending some time with it. While the current pop scene seems to lean towards darker elements (much like the brooding pop Billie Eilish), Dua Lipa cuts through the negativity with a surgeon-like precision on this instant pop classic.

”End Of An Era” picks right up where Future Nostalgia left off, and offers a disco-infused anthem as Dua Lipa ponders, “What’s it about a kiss / That makes me feel like this? / Makes me an optimist, I guess.” By honing in on her quest for love, Dua Lipa pens a heartfelt anthem about falling head over heels in a relationship. Lead single, “Houdini” is well-placed in the sequencing, and the rattling beat provides the right landscape for this talented artist to lend her vocals to. It has everything you’d want to see in a standout lead single from a pop artist, and provides a solid transition from the sound she nearly perfected on her sophomore effort. “Training Season” lends itself well to Parker’s guitar picking/playing as it has a Latin-infused vibe to it that explodes out of the gate with a passion behind each lyric. The chorus of, “Need someone to hold me close / Deeper than I’ve ever known / Whose love feels like a rodeo / Knows just how to take control / When I’m vulnerable / He’s straight talking to my soul / Conversation overload / Got me feeling vertigo,” has a steady vocal cadence to it that Dua Lipa excels at and feels right at home with.

A more vulnerable side comes from Dua Lipa on “These Walls” as she focuses on an outsider’s perspective of a relationship. Pointed lyrics in the chorus of, “But if these walls could talk (They’d say) / “Enough!” / (They’d say) “Give up” / If these walls could talk / (They’d say) “You know…” / (They’d say) “…you’re fucked” / It’s not supposed to hurt this much / Oh, if these walls could talk / They’d tell us to break up,” showcase the conflict in Dua Lipa’s quest for a lifelong partner. It’s a powerful anthem that provides some musical contrast to the early trio of songs. “Whatcha Doing” rocks with a great bass line that has a pop sheen that is rarely seen this vibrantly. The production reminds me of Michael Jackson albums, with an improved emphasis on Dua Lipa’s vocal performance.

The middle section of the record never decelerates its momentum, even with mid-tempo rockers like “French Exit.” Instead, Dua Lipa picks up the pace to her comfortable, breakneck setting on the current single, “Illusion,” that has a piano-laced emphasis on her lyrics on the chorus to make for a club-ready jam. Dua Lipa delivers an all-time vocal performance on the pick-me-up trotting beat on “Falling Forever,” as she cements herself as one of the marquee pop singers of this generation. She sounds like a million bucks here as she commands the song from the opening notes all the way to the finish line.

The only song that feels a little out of place is the piano-based ballad of “Anything For Love,” that begins with playful conversation/chatter before Dua Lipa sings like she’s at a jazz bar singing for the most intimate of audiences. The disco beat eventually kicks in at the midway point, but quickly exits before the song can really get its footing. “Maria” is a better example of where Dua Lipa experiments with different sounds from her contemporary take on disco flavored, club ready anthems, instead choosing to use Latin-inspired guitars to convey the right emotion. The contrast between the front half to the back half of the LP makes for a well-balanced record that Dua Lipa can look proudly back upon. “Happy For You” closes out this era of this artist’s self-discovery with breathy vocals paired with heavenly vocal highs on the chorus to hit her intended heights for the track.

Overall, there’s plenty to love and enjoy on this great exploration of the pitfalls of falling and out of love, and hoping that things will eventually work out in your favor on Radical Optimism. While naysayers may point to the songs lacking some lyrical depth to them, that will come for this young artist over time, and it’s really hard to not appreciate this collection of songs that will be beckoning for you to spend plenty of time as the weather improves. This immediately gratifying record is what pop music should sound like and Dua Lipa is doing the genre about as brilliantly as one could ever hope for.