TRACK REVIEW: Dua Lipa - Don’t Start Now

TRACK REVIEW:

 

Dua Lipa

Don’t Start Now

 

9.1/10

 

 The track, Don’t Start Now, is available from:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oygrmJFKYZY

GENRES:

Pop/Dance-Pop

ORIGIN:

London, U.K.

RELEASE DATE:

31st October, 2019

LABEL:

Warner Records UK

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THIS is a review…

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PHOTO CREDIT: Janell Shirtcliff for Variety

I did not imagine myself doing but, as Pop music is changing and different artists are coming through, I wanted to review Dua Lipa and her latest single, Don’t Start Now. I have nothing against Dua Lipa – she is one of the most inventive Pop artists around -, but my attentions are usually aimed at other genres. Not only is Lipa one of the more original artists on the block; she is also one of the most popular in all of the world. Many might recognise her from the monster single, New Rules, which broke records and hit the top spot here. At a time where very few women go to the top of the charts, Dua Lipa definitely achieved something very rare and inspiring. Recently, she attended Cambridge University and made a speech regarding the realities of life in the music industry for young women. She talked about the scrutiny women face and what it is like on social media. Dua Lipa has also observed how Pop has changed and the fact that, in this modern time, the number-one song will sound very different to the one of next week. I want to discuss this first and, after, look at Disco and injecting more fun into the scene; social media and the pressures big artists face; gender equality and artists like Dua Lipa being able to affect change; I also want to talk about her family background. Let us chat about the new face of Pop music. People like me (in their thirties) will often get hung up on the music of the past. To be honest, it is not hard to see why many of us return to the Pop from the 1960s-1990s: there are massive hooks, melodies and that sense of life and positivity that gives you a lift and stays in the head. It is clear the landscape has changed very noticeably and gone through transformations.

 PHOTO CREDIT: Markus Pritzi

In terms of observations, many have noted how Pop in particular has become sadder and more repetitive; it is, maybe, a little less memorable because hooks are not as important as the personal and other considerations. Maybe it is a subjective measure as to whether Pop was better in my time or whether it is stronger now. Will many of the artists from the scene now (and the past decade) remain years from now? Will we recall song from today’s market the sane way as we do those older classics? Time will tell us the answer, but it is harder for artists to succeed, stand out and create something truly enduring. Dua Lipa is an artist who realises this and does not try to repeat what is already out there. Not only does Dua Lipa ensure that her songs are her own and have that special D.N.A., but she also ensures her videos capture the imagination and stand out. It is hard today, because videos are not necessarily used to market a song quite the same way as they were years ago. Because of that, there is this trouble artists face getting noticed and having a video that will be seen. For big artists like Dua Lipa, they have a solid and loyal fanbase, so it ensures the videos do well. In terms of how Pop is transforming and what defines today’s crop? Early last year, Lipa was asked about Pop and how she would define it:

It’s definitely changed. I think the artists are really the face of the music they make. It’s no longer the genre that dictates it. Artists have a lot more creative leeway, and the number one this week is gonna sound nothing like the number one next week. I think that’s what’s so magical about what’s happening. You never really know what’s going to be the next big thing.

How do you feel like you fit into that new pop landscape then?

Well, I always want to be able to reinvent myself, but in a way that feels authentic to me and something that I can identify with. My idea of pop has been P!nk and Christina Aguilera and Destiny’s Child and Nelly Furtado, but it’s also taking that modern-day twist, where you’re allowed to be a bit more adventurous and you’re allowed to talk about different experiences, personal experiences, which is something that P!nk did so perfectly. I feel in a time like now, you are really able to talk about everything and anything in the hope that somebody might be able to relate to it.

My place? I guess I just want to be able to make music that’s empowering, but I also don’t want to limit myself to being someone that just makes empowering songs. I want to be able to write songs that can also bring you down, and they kind of hurt at some point. It depends how people take it. I just want to play around.

I don’t want to be forgotten. I want to keep releasing music, and not every single song that you release is gonna be like, “Oh, this is the song going to the radio!” It’s just releasing music because you love releasing music, and you love playing around. There’s just so many artists and so much inspiration to be had that’s so brilliant that I think that’s what pop music is, is innovative”.

That desire Dua Lipa has not to be forgotten; this is something that plays on her mind when she launches a song. Her eponymous album of 2017 scored some positive reviews because it was clear she was not necessarily thinking about chart positions but what will resonate and remain. I do think a lot of what she does is aimed at making people feel better and stronger. A lot of artists are quite emotional and their music has that slightly teary edge. That is fine, but it can get a little depressing and it is harder to keep those songs in the head. Dua Lipa’s tracks are defined by energy and spirit. She wants to send out messages and statements and, at the same time, get people moving and together. I want to bring in a couple of interviews, where she was asked about her future material and how she sees her debut. This feature from The Face gives a bit of insight into Dua Lipa’s second album – the fact that it is going in a slightly new direction:

Back in April, she told her Insta followers that after a predominantly electronic first album, the follow-up is going to have a lot more live instrumentation.

“I feel like you could dance through the whole record,” she says. “There’s lots of nostalgic elements to it. There’s a sample in there from the 1930s. It’s just a party”.

I know Prince is an artist who influences her, so will we see something taut, tight and funky for the second album? That would be a breath of fresh air in a Pop scene that is less defined by fun and hooks as it is by a set template and a rather listless sound. Many were attracted to Dua Lipa’s debut album, because it was a varied and personal work. When speaking with Vogue, the songwriter was asked how she feels about her debut:

Your debut was such a solid pop debut. How do you reflect on Dua Lipa four years later?

“It was such a big part of my life. What I love about that record is that it’s a pop record but it’s so eclectic. I experimented with so many different sounds. My new record is still pop and it is really fun, but it is definitely more conceptual. I had the album title and went from that. After listening to it, it kind of feels like a dancercise class (laughs). I’m not trying to take myself too seriously but as a record it does feel more mature. I’m so excited to get going again. I’m ready! We’re on the countdown now.”

I am slightly ambivalent when it comes to modern Pop because, on the one hand, I know it needs to progress and reflect the modern times, but there is that feeling that artists are too similar and you would need a spectrum analyser to distinguish between those who have the same beats and voices. I know there are so many more artists out now compared to years ago, but there is a lack of originality from the mainstream. I think Dua Lipa, from the start, endeavoured to make something that was her own and tried to shake Pop up. A lot of eyes will be on her next year as she releases (I assume) her second album. Not only is there a lot of expectations; she also has scored some big hits, so there will be the desire from the label to release songs that will be big on the charts. Will this restrict her horizons and temporise her desires?

I am not sure, but it is clear there is a spark and fierceness in the heart of Dua Lipa. She takes no sh*t from anyone and is making music that feels right to her – not what is expected by the media and mainstream. Here is an artist in her twenties whose music has been streamed billions of times. It is obvious 2018 was a defining year for her. Variety ran a feature and spoke with Dua Lipa about her success. So many Pop artists come off as quite ordinary and do not have much of any important to impart. In the interview, Dua Lipa talked about her love of older music and how that is defining her moves. I mentioned how Dua Lipa’s future sounds might be more Disco-tinged. I think we need more of that in the industry. There is this rather depressing shadow being cast by Brexit and world affairs, so music that gets us kicking, singing and dancing is a much-needed thing. It seems like Dua Lipa is an artist who has that passion for the icons:

“They are definitely interesting, nostalgic feelings. I ended up listening to Prince, Outkast, old Gwen Stefani and No Doubt. It sounds like such a crazy clash of styles, but that’s just how I like to do things. Juxtaposition has always been a common factor in everything I do. It’s very ‘me’”.

What grabs a lot of people (when it comes to Dua Lipa) is her voice and how she is not moulding herself to be like anyone else. So many artists have this samey vocal sound, and it does get very boring and worrying. It seems that, at a time when we need Pop to be more energised, interesting and fresh, many artists are not taking chances or going beyond the routine. The Variety article highlighted Dua Lipa’s vocal punch; she talked about modern Pop and the lack of Dance-Pop sounds:

Critics have rhapsodized over her smoky voice and rhythmic cadences that define the distinctive role she inhabits in the dance-pop genre: a singer whose songs are at once badass and cathartic. But it’s also true that the genre currently has few dedicated practitioners.

“Outside of Ariana Grande, it doesn’t feel like a lot of the established A-list pop stars want to make pure pop/dance music at the moment,” says Chris Booker of KAMP-FM in Los Angeles. Lipa is “doing the right collaborations [Silk City, Calvin Harris] and filling an obvious void”.

Lipa takes themes of emotional conflict and makes them accessible. “I love songs that aren’t necessarily the happiest and putting them to the happiest beat ever so you can actually dance to it,” she says. “‘Dance-crying’ is a term I’ve been using”.

I think (I hope) I have talked enough about Pop and how Dua Lipa is different to many others out there. It is very evident that she has determination and wants to change things. Given that Lipa is a very big star and has accrued so many fans, she does have to deal with social media. This is a subject that is always being discussed and it is something we all need to be aware of. Most of us spend too much time on social media but, for artists, they need to promote their music and rely a lot on followers and promotional platforms like Twitter and Facebook. With that exposure comes a lot of backlash; artists are open to trolling and there are going to be those people who want to criticise and attack. The impact this is having on the mental-health of artists is obvious. I think we do need to do more to ensure artists like Dua Lipa are protected and anyone who does cross the line is banned – we are seeing too many artists being negatively impacted by social media. In this interview, Dua Lipa was asked about the pressure she faces and how she deals with it:

You’ve achieved so much as a pop star but conversely you must experience an awful lot of pressure too. How do you take care of your mental wellbeing, how do you make sure you’re ok?

“My family and my friends keep me grounded. I’ve also learnt to do social media in bite sizes. Social media has always been around for my generation, so for me it’s really fun to post pictures, tweet and update. But I’ve also received a lot of backlash for talking about political things close to my heart. I’m not one to say sorry, I like to stand by things I believe in, so sometimes I delete the app so I don’t start second guessing myself. Trolls can very easily give you anxiety.

PHOTO CREDIT: Elle 

“The thing that keeps me on social media – and this is more Twitter than Instagram – is my connection with my fans. They’re the reason why I download the app again, so I can talk to them. It’s the foundation that we’ve built everything on. My fans know me so well now that I get messages saying, ‘We know you need some time out from Twitter, we just wanted to tell you we missed you’. It’s like everything in life; it’s about finding and maintaining a healthy balance. You can’t always get it right, but you have to try”.

It is that connection and support she gets from fans that keep her on social media. Dua Lipa says she checks in, but not as frequently as many. It is hard to ween yourself away and there is that sense of addiction. I can only imagine what it is like for a young artist on social media in 2019. I do worry that a lot of pressure is being put on artists and, when it comes to selling their music, they are expected to spend inordinate periods on social media. I do feel like there needs to be barriers and curfews, because so many artists are suffering and finding that their mental wellbeing declines. A lot of artists do burn out or they need time away to recharge. Dua Lipa has a sensible head on her shoulders, and I think she has a pragmatic approach when it comes to social media. In several features, I have talked about women in the industry and how, even  today, we have to discuss parity and whether women are overlooked and why there is sexism. The issue (sadly) is not going anywhere, and so many female artists are subjected to abuse; many others are not booked for festivals or seen as inferior to their male counterparts. Dua Lipa and her contemporaries are speaking out, but the industry needs to do more to ensure that there is balance and progression happens as quickly as possible.

Dua Lipa has spoken about social media and how it can impact artists. She is also someone who wants to see changes in the music industry regarding the way women are perceived and celebrated. Not only are women of all ages provided fewer opportunities than men; more mature women are often consigned to the scrapheap, whereas older men are still exposed and promoted. In this article from The Independent, Dua Lipa spoke about gender and age:     

 “The Brit Award-winner continued by saying that some people are “very hypocritical” before explaining how these kinds of conversations can impact women in the entertainment industry.

“It feels like for men, getting older in an industry is celebrated whereas for women we’re instantly put down because we’re getting older,” Lipa says.

“It’s quite upsetting because why can’t we? As female artists, when we start something in our careers we want longevity and we don’t want ageing to be the reason we stop working or people stop being interested in us. We still have a lot to say and we still have a lot to bring to the table.

“I think it’s a lot to do with the conversations that are being made on social media.”

The One Kiss singer also spoke about how she is seen as a role model for young women, admitting she doesn’t always get things right.

“I will do whatever is in my ability to be able to do what’s right but at the same time I’m also learning and I’m not perfect,” Lipa adds.

“I think that’s something really important for them to remember, that we’re allowed to make mistakes and be ourselves and be young, but at the same time try and set a good example”.

Songs like New Rules are feminist anthems, and the young songwriter has spoken extensively about the #MeToo movement and gender inequality. One other reason why I wanted to focus on Dua Lipa is that she is a role model. Not only will she compel and motivate young women, but she is a good example for any artist. I think men in the music industry are not doing enough to affect change and raise awareness of sexism. I think we should all take a lead from Dua Lipa and her peers and ensure that change happens sooner rather than later. Not your average and processed Pop artist, I feel like Dua Lipa’s musical and familial background plays a role when it comes to her sound and attitude.

I will move on to reviewing Dua Lipa’s new song very soon but, before then, I want to bring in an article from The Guardian from 2018, where they talk about her background and her parents’ struggle:

Her mother, Anesa, was born to a Kosovan father and a Bosnian mother. In the 90s, war came first to Bosnia, where Anesa’s mother lived, and then to Kosovo, where by now Anesa was living with her fiance, Dukagjin Lipa. Dukagjin was the son of a well-known historian, Seit Lipa, who at that time was the head of the Kosovo Institute of History. When conflict began to brew in Kosovo, Seit’s career abruptly ended. As Lipa tells it: “Once the Serbians came in, they wanted a lot of the historians to rewrite the history of Kosovo. To change it – that Kosovo was always part of Serbia and never part of Yugoslavia. And my grandfather was one of those people who wouldn’t, so he lost his job, because he didn’t want to write a history that he didn’t believe to be true.”

In 1992, Dukagjin and Anesa sought refuge in London, while their parents stayed behind in Kosovo and Bosnia. Seit Lipa died in 1999, the year that the Kosovo war ended. “He had a heart attack. And because the borders were closed, my father couldn’t go back to see him.”

Lipa was born in north-west London in 1995. “I’ve seen my parents work every day of my life,” she says. In Kosovo her father was training to be a dentist, her mother to be a lawyer. Sudden flight to London threw all this over, and for a long time Lipa’s parents worked as waiters in cafes and bars. In the evenings, her father took business courses. Her mother retrained in travel and tourism. “While I was going to school they were going to school”.

I think her parents’ work ethic has affected Dua Lipa and how she approaches music. Her parents worked tirelessly and they never quit. Maybe Dua Lipa wants to get success so, in part, she can repay her parents, but I think their example has touched their daughter and she wants to go far. I already highlighted how Dua Lipa is influenced by artists such as Prince and, when you mix that in with her family background, you have this artist who is going to be someone we remember years from now – quite a feat in this modern landscape! I am not sure when Dua Lipa’s second album is out but, in the absence of new album announcements, she has released a new single. It is time I get down to assessing it.

I would advise people watch the video for Don’t Start Now because, from the very start, it has plenty to recommend. The heroine wrestles with a camera and drops someone – maybe a member of the paparazzi? – and the song then goes into the club. That image of Dua Lipa tangling with someone leads me to believe that personal space is desired. She wants to be left alone or, at the very least, needs more space. She did a “full-180, crazy…” and talks about heartbreak. Did it change her? Maybe. She has ended up on higher ground; a safe plain and it seems like there is this indomitable spirit that cannot be extinguished. I speculated that media attention was what she was rebelling against – maybe it is her ex-lover or something from that romance? Unlike so many of today’s Pop songs, Dua Lipa is trying to make a track that relies more on fun and the beats, rather than a commercial formula and something quite downbeat. I do think a lot of the mainstream has lacked energy and punch and, although she is one of the biggest stars on the planet, I think artists like Taylor Swift lack the power to stay in the head – one listens to the songs and they are not recalled to the mind days down the line. The video has an infectiousness where Dua Lipa is performing and joined by a willing and supportive crowd. It is clear there is this defiance and renewal. Rather than wallow and get down on herself, she is shedding an old skin and looking to the future. I do like a song that has a definite strut and understands the importance of a good chorus. Don’t Start Now has some groaning, grooving bass and a solid beat. The song has this sense of movement and, whilst the chorus is not as emphatic and delirious as some of Pop’s best, it is a revelation in the modern market. There is this precursor to Dua Lipa’s new album; one where her voice and decisions are louder and where she turns the energy and catchiness up.

I liked her debut, but I felt like it was too familiar and similar to a lot of Pop at the time. Here, there is a clash of the new and vintage. You get the sense that Dua Lipa was taking influence from her record collection, rather than trying to fit in with the contemporary scene. Maybe that is just my view, but I can see that step and what we have is a Pop song with Disco edges that everyone can get behind! The heroine sends a clear message to her former beau: if you don’t want to see her dancing with another, then do not show up! In the video, Dua Lipa is enraptured by the music, the sweat and the crowd. Whether the song is based on a real-life relationship – I think she is in a committed relationship, but one can never tell for sure -, or whether it is based in fiction, I am not sure. The sheer conviction of the delivery makes me believe that the former is true. Don’t Start Now is a song that goes through various stages. The chorus is this rush and explosion that brings the heat and energy. The track then cools into more R&B territory and, as Dua Lipa goes from the heat of the club, she is pictured (in the video) is a more stately and stuffy party – one where she probably stands out because she is not dressed to the nines and part of that scene. Maybe the video’s scenes represents the transition from one love to a new life; maybe Dua Lipa is showing that she is not who she used to be and is embracing a different way of life. There is plenty of colour and beautiful imagery as we see Dua Lipa flee the party. One is always hooked by the teasing and hissing beat; the track keeps evolving and pressing, so one will come back to the track again and again.

 PHOTO CREDIT: Erik Madigan Heck

I do like that there are beats that remind one a bit of Daft Punk; almost a whisper of House piano and a sound that is far more organic, ripe and appealing than a lot of the rather tin-like, over-produced and facsimile flavour of Pop – not to label every artist, but one will hear a lot of this circling about. Running in at three minutes, Don’t Start Now is the perfect length and never outstays its welcome. Towards the end, there are strings, pops and fireworks that fives the track plenty of colour and vivacity. Dua Lipa is the heroine who still feels the loss of a past love, but she is moving on and is not going to be defined by that bond. Everyone can relate to the song, and it will register in the hearts of many out there – not just young women either. One of Dua Lipa’s core strengths is her videos and, this time out, she has helped create a very memorable video that intrigues and compels you to watch. It is busy and beautifully shot…and I have watched it a few songs because it is so lively and cinematic. I have been a bit dismissive of modern Pop, but I feel like a lot of my observations hold true. Dua Lipa is definitely one of those artists who wants to make her mark and be around for a very long time to come. I think she will achieve that, because her tracks are very much her own work – even though she works with other writers and producers -, and one can hear something different and nuanced in her music. I think this all bodes well for her second album. I am not sure whether Don’t Start Now will be included in the mix but, considering the hugely positive reception the song has gained, I would be shocked if it was omitted. If you are not familiar with the work of Dua Lipa then I would recommend you give her new track a spin and then work back to her debut album – one can see how far she has come.

 IN THIS PHOTO: Dua Lipa at the 61st annual Grammy Awards (2019)/PHOTO CREDIT: EPA

2018 was, obviously, a very busy and successful year for Dua Lipa. She did well at the BRIT Awards and, not only was she honoured at the Grammys this year, but she performed with St. Vincent. Since the start of 2019, Lipa has been working on new music and touring. There is not a lot of chance to rest when you are a massive star, but let’s hope she gets some time off for Christmas! The awards coming her way are deserved, and I feel 2020 will be an even bigger year for her. Will she command headline slots at big festivals? Maybe it is a bit soon, but I feel Dua Lipa will already been in the mind of Michael and Emily Eavis for Glastonbury; she will get booked for European festivals – who is to say Coachella is out of the question?! Dua Lipa is in Spain as we speak, preparing herself for the MTV Europe Music Awards. Later this month, she heads to the U.A.E. and India, and I think she will wind 2019 down shortly after. It has been a very packed year for Dua Lipa and she continues to go from strength to strength. I am not a massive fan of modern Pop, and I do feel like it lacks the hooks, big choruses and instant memorability of the older tracks. Maybe that is just the way Pop is going and there is that generational divide; those who say Pop is getting worse and those who say it simply moving forward. Whilst I do not have a lot of time for Dua Lipa’s peers, I think she is one of the strongest artists around and is trying to take modern Pop in a much-needed direction. I am not sure how her 2020 is going to begin, but I guess preparations for her second album will continue. I will be genuinely interested seeing how her career develops and what lays in store for her next year. It is hard to succeed today, and I have respect artists who take chances and stand out. That is definitely the case with Dua Lipa. She is a role model for women everywhere and, for those who want to see Pop music lift its spirits and employ a bit more spirit, there is a lot of promise in the heart of Dua Lipa. For that, myself and so many other out there…

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 PHOTO CREDIT: Markus Pritzi

WISH her all the very best.

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