Dua Lipa's new rules mean taking things slow and easy

Three years after ‘New Rules’ made her a star, Dua Lipa is back with a sophomore album of disco-tinged goodness. She talks life in lockdown, her love for New York and scoring her first number one. Alex Green finds out more

Dua Lipa's new rules mean taking things slow and easy
Dua Lipa

When Dua Lipa imagined spring 2020, lying in and boxsets were not high on the agenda.

Now, the 24-year-old pop darling is camped out in London, far from the stadiums and TV studios she expected to inhabit following the release of her second album, Future Nostalgia.

“Given the current circumstances, it’s just taking a step back,” she begins.

“Taking it easy, taking it slow. I’m reading books, watching TV show series, cooking, eating, hanging out. It is all you can really do.

“I have already watched Tiger King, Ozark, The Sinner, Unorthodox, I have watched.... everything, pretty much.”

Future Nostalgia was ready for release at the start of April and Lipa’s diary for the rest of 2020 was packed: a world tour, a guest spot on Saturday Night Live and a coveted Glastonbury slot.

But while artists including Lady Gaga and Sam Smith have delayed their albums due to the coronavirus pandemic, Lipa took the decision to bring hers forward.

This was, in part, due to the fact the record leaked online.

In a tearful Instagram Live she announced the news and told fans: “I feel like I have been welling up a lot over the past couple of weeks, just because of the uncertainty over everything.”

When we speak, Lipa is holed up in an Airbnb (her London flat flooded) with her boyfriend Anwar Hadid, the brother of models Gigi and Bella.

She says she considered self-isolating at her New York apartment, but that the option was taken off the table by Donald Trump’s travel ban.

“I would normally work between London and LA really,” she explains.

“But I just love New York so much and I always wanted to live there. When the travel ban came into place, I couldn’t go back.”

Lipa has also just scored her first number one album, after being pipped to the post the previous week by Australian band 5 Seconds Of Summer.

It was a surreal experience given the record’s release and promotional cycle were conducted from her living room.

“I was at home,” she laughs brightly.

“It made the day really, really fun. I couldn’t believe it. I had a FaceTime with my friends and family.

“I did the same thing I do every day. Just sat down and watched a movie, had a nice dinner, chilled. I am hoping that once this is over, I will celebrate properly.”

Katy Perry was among her well-wishers and the pair exchanged texts.

“We have this close bond and I love her so much,” she gushes.

The decision to take more time over her follow-up album shows in its razor-sharp song-writing and glossy faux-vintage aesthetic.

Her self-titled debut was delayed as she tried, at first unsuccessfully, to gain traction in the charts.

That changed in 2017 with the release of New Rules, which captured the public imagination with its message of female camaraderie and pastel-hued music video.

Simply put, it made her a star and shone a light on her other songs: ‘IDGAF’, ‘Hotter Than Hell’ and ‘Be The One’.

It was a dizzying time and one that taught her some lessons.

“Especially with the first record, I was so nervous,” she confides.

“I was like: ‘Am I doing the right moves? Am I singing right?’

“I was trying to do so many thing at once. Because everything was going so fast on the first record, I felt like I didn’t really have time to rehearse or do things properly.

“This time round I really had the chance to separate enough personal time, so I could focus on that.”

Her decision to take things slow was reaffirmed by the album’s critical and commercial success.

Singles ‘Physical’, ‘Don’t Start Now’ and ‘Break My Heart’ cracked the top 10, while taste-makers called Future Nostalgia the first great pop album of 2020.

Her patient approach entailed giving songs time to develop — a hard-won luxury in an industry driven by relentless album cycles.

On ‘Love Again’, Lipa hit an impasse until she stumbled across the horn sample from White Town’s 1997 hit ‘Your Woman’.

“I rejigged it so many times until I properly sat with it,” she recalls.

“And then I found the sample that helped glue everything together.

“It’s one of my favourite songs on the record and it was always very heartfelt.

“The whole structure of it took the longest time. I needed to work hard on it.”

Born in London to Kosovan-Albanian parents, Lipa was taken back to the Kosovan capital of Pristina when she was in her early teens.

But at 15, she returned to the UK alone to pursue her dream of becoming a singer.

That determination is a fixture in her music — on the languid ‘Boys Will Be Boys’, which tackles the everyday sexism faced by women, and the title track, with its talk of the “female alpha”.

At 24, she passes for both a millennial and Generation Z, placing her in a convenient juncture between generations.

“People love to connect in different ways,” she reflects.

“Through live streams, through posting stuff and asking people questions, through stories, through Q&As.

“There are just different ways of connecting. It’s something we are all having to adapt to.

“It’s different for sure, but it’s not something I am shying away from.

“I am quite enjoying trying out different ways to communicate with my fans.

“That’s actually been really fun.”

Lipa promises new music is on the horizon.

But for now, she is content to focus on the album at hand.

“I’ve not been writing anything yet,” she admits.

“I don’t think I am quite ready to jump into the next project.

“My head is still in this one and I still have a few more songs that I want people to hear before I get into anything new...”

Future Nostalgia is out now.

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