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Dua Lipa: Houdini review – vanishing-act anthem destined for total ubiquity

(Warner Music)
Co-produced by Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker and PC Music alumnus Danny L Harle, Lipa’s comeback is insistent, opulent disco with another indelible lyrical concept At first blush, the notion that Dua Lipa named her comeback single after shorthand for pulling a vanishing act is a bit eyebrow-raising. Since she released her second album, Future Nostalgia, in 2020, the 28-year-old British-Albanian pop star has been an omnipresent multimedia poly-threat. Beyond that album’s ubiquitous singles, there were collaborations with Elton John, Megan Thee Stallion, Calvin Harris, Miley Cyrus, J Balvin, Angèle, Kylie Minogue and the late Pop Smoke, as well as a fashion collection with Donatella Versace. She hosts her own podcast for the BBC, edits a lifestyle newsletter, runs an online book club and is the face of umpteen brands. This year alone, Lipa has appeared on the covers of Vogue France, Dazed and the style magazines of the New York Times and the Sunday Times (and in illustrated form on the Beano’s 85th anniversary edition); until she wiped her Instagram to herald her comeback, her feed was a style bible in its own right of casually glam photo dumps from glitzy locales. She was also one of many celebrity cameos in Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, and she helmed the most successful song on its soundtrack, Dance the Night; a role in the Henry Cavill film Argylle arrives in February. “For Dua Lipa, Just Being a Pop Star Isn’t Enough”, read the headline of that NYT story. The writer Kurt Soller noted the novelty of watching “a celebrity build a brand off her own interests and obsessions, rather than allow her private life to become an interest and obsession of others”. It’s a smart form of self-protection in the face of rabid tabloids and invasive fans, but it’s also the contradiction behind Lipa’s stature: she is one of the biggest pop stars in the world yet can sometimes seem a bit elusive in her own work. Her vibe is bold, uncomplicated and malleable, kind of old school; her most defining feature a voice as capable of opulence as pointy rebuke. Her discography shows her slowly coming into focus: her self-titled 2017 debut was a grab-bag of the kind of transcendently basic pop bangers that are falling out of style, and the late-in-the-day breakout success of single New Rules gave her the leverage to become an artiste on the loosely conceptual Future Nostalgia, a playful disco record with a 90s pop sheen – and Lipa as its clear centre. Continue reading...

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