Is it an escape door we all have been waiting to open?
Pandemics are known for taking people on the roller coaster of their own: they upend all of society, take them on the ride of worries, anxiety about fake news, social media and sometimes stupid governance. Meanwhile, art, throughout history, were created during the perilous and dark times. Artists are notorious for depicting to the utmost in times of difficulties. Pictures, songs, movies, etc. were put out just in time the world needs something to rely on and “escape” from reality.
We might think “art is art”, it should not be reformed or defined in any other way. However, I’ve always thought that art is a way of awakening a sense of wonder in our dull lives. We dance to the music, we cry with the scenes in movies, we fantasize about ourselves as the artists. We express all our emotions with the catalyst of art. Therefore, art is still art, yes, but it depends on how we choose to consume it. Escapism can be one of them. Artists and consumers can put themselves into different fantasy zones where they can freely be themselves, amid the reality of bad times.
Have you ever heard the saying “When the world fails, music speaks”? Yes, that’s it. Music can be the delivery man of mentality, ideas, and even political viewpoints. Messages through songs, with lyrics or without lyrics, can be read and analyzed in many ways, and somehow we feel related to them. Music is a barrier but also fuel. You lose yourself into the beat of a song against all the exterior miseries, feel inspired to keep going through difficulties.
In this day and age, the novel coronavirus is doing a good job at destroying the world’s healthcare systems and people are losing their minds trying to keep themselves busy at home, living their lives in their own safe homes. Movies are closed, the big names in production have postponed the release dates of their works, television is trying to thrive, Netflix-and-chill is getting more boring when we have more time to binge multiple TV series than ever, we are sick of celebrities live-streaming 24/7 on Instagram and not to mention the work-from-home is the pain in the ass.
When you say “art is an escape”, it is the closest escape that we have been needing. But then for the sake of good revenue, they close our doors to the fantasy land.
But then comes Dua Lipa: She opened her door for us, sharing her music one week earlier than expected due to the unfortunate leak. She exactly served us with a dance-filled record, a real party (at home) that we have been dying to attend with the new album “Future Nostalgia”.
I have been trying to find things to do to elevate my mood during this stay-home time, and dancing in the middle of despair. I think it is one of the strongest defense and the armor that we use to battle the “anxious evils” that are trying to occupy our existence. The compilation of 11 songs with no ballad, all of them can become a disco moment in their own ways. Dua Lipa is truly proving that she is not only a pop girl who puts out catchy and easy-to-remember songs but can bring on the table the sophisticated, exquisite and different taste of music. Bringing back 80s disco pop-punk sounds in just a sophomore album is a risky move because if the songs do not have their own weight and powerful messages (through lyrics), they can simply become a basic mixture of heavy bass-lines and fall flat afterward. This can be seen in the works of Charlie Puth and Meghan Trainor, trying to ignite the nostalgia that we have been long lost in the times where electronic music and hip-hop are taking pop’s prime. However, their works became forgetful, Instagram-stories-material and showing out themselves as being insecure. When Dua Lipa introduced the project of “Future Nostalgia” to the world, I was a bit worried that she can trip and fall by doing disco music because she can become the cases as I have mentioned above. However, with the first single “Don’t Start Now” — a synths-filled breakup anthem, I started to believe that she is going on the right track.
The album starts with Dua Lipa putting on the image of the “female alpha” as she touches various topics of self-image, feminism, and sex in a set of 11 tracks. The album is a liberation of a woman in many aspects, telling her fellow female listeners to “step up” (as she mentioned in the shady Grammy acceptance speech of “Best New Artist”). The biggest star of the album must belong to “Physical” — the biggest 80s pop move inspired by the “viral” Olivia Newton-John’s gym anthem. Dua Lipa, once again, reinvented the pumped-up sounds of the 80s and make it her own way with nonstop synths and commanding lyrics about the honeymoon phase of a relationship. Just like what Olivia did, Dua really turns the gym into the dance floor.
Self-determination has become something that female artists have been trying to convey through their works. But sometimes, it became a vague and “full of hey-ho” messy moments; as we have seen in Taylor Swift’s super bad singles “ME!” and “You Need To Calm Down”. Since her first self-titled album, Dua did a good job in empowering women and the “real self-seekers" with “New Rules” and “IDGAF”, she continues to bring us a stronger message with “Levitating” — a nearly touch to a perfect song with handclaps, bass-line, and the ultra-sexy rapping, which Taylor Swift couldn’t manage with her previous attempts (say, “Shake It Off”). “Hallucinate” is also a strong component in making this one the Album of the year competence. Kylie Minogue-inspired and Madonna’s “Confessions On The Dancefloor” type of sounds work perfectly with Dua Lipa’s unique voice, this needs to be a club banger with tons of remixes as soon as possible.
“Love Again” is one of the album’s biggest standouts, sampling British one-man band White Town’s “Your Woman”. Dua Lipa is paying homage to the good times of pop music and “Break My Heart”, an INXS-sampled funky track is a nod to the past and bringing us the true definition of “future nostalgia”.
The minor downfall is when the album comes to the end with a misstep of “Good In Bed”, a Lily Allen’s reference with straightforward lyrics but a quirky arrangement. However, the song fails to make its impact; then comes along with “Boys Will Be Boys”, a feminist message on how “girls will be women” and targeting men as the factor of sex inequality and discrimination. However, the song is lack of the album’s nostalgic touch. “Cool” is also a prominent track if it stands alone, meanwhile being sandwiched by “Don’t Start Now” and “Physical”, which have been jammed million times before the album release.
I have been feeling out of breath these days, lying in bed without any exact plans on what to do the next day, wondering if this pandemic will ever end and the self-quarantine process will last for how long. There comes “Future Nostalgia”, a real escape from all the mess that coronavirus has left a mark on me, Dua Lipa suddenly becomes a savior among us all, makes us get lost into the rhythm, brings back the old values that we have forgotten and simply dance away. My emotions need a powerful environment to stay put and Dua Lipa provides me enough space for self-liberation, self-confidence and at the end of the day, she reminds me to keep the “self” with me every single time.
Dua Lipa is a special moment for me as she was my very first concert ever when I moved to Japan for university. It was 2 years ago and I remember the moment when she walked out and gave us her energy with a non-stop session of her debut album. She has now improved with a better presence and proves to us who Dua Lipa is. I am excited about what to come.
With “Future Nostalgia” and the music created and released during this dark time, thank you for giving us a place to be ourselves, or to put it simpler, a source of fresh air just to keep breathing.
If you haven't checked out “Future Nostalgia", please do it now. Dance away, have fun and stay safe!