How Dua Lipa Kept Us Dancing Through the Darkness

When Dua Lipa’s disco-drenched Future Nostalgia came out on March 27th last year, the timing could hardly have seemed worse. With the terrifying scale of the Covid crisis just coming into focus, and much of the world going into lockdown, who wanted an album of high-energy, dance-all-night club music?

As it turns out, we all did. As disconnected as the album seemed from the moment, Future Nostalgia was undeniable — euphoric, cheeky, and defiantly ready to party: an escape, for sure, but also a joyful portent for a time when we can all be together again. The album made Lipa into a global superstar, with more than 3 billion streams (Future Nostalgia peaked at Number Four on Rolling Stone’s album chart) and six Grammy nominations.

Unlike her first album, which mashed up pop styles and producers, Future Nostalgia’s space-age Studio 54 vibe is all Lipa’s vision. “There was a point where I was like, ‘Oh, everybody loves a ballad, maybe I should make one,’ ” she tells senior writer Alex Morris in this issue’s cover story. “But my heart wasn’t in it. That wasn’t what I was feeling. I was like, ‘Fuck it. It’s a fun record, and it’s just dance all the way through.’ ”

Morris has contributed to Rolling Stone since 2012 and written about everything from the rollback of reproductive rights to evangelical Christianity and, most recently, the political divisions in her own family (see “Loving People Who Love Donald Trump”). She has also profiled many of the biggest pop stars, including Lorde, Halsey, and Camila Cabello. She was impressed with Lipa’s drive and focus, which she tracks back to the singer’s upbringing in war-torn Kosovo and her decision at age 15 to leave home for London to pursue music.

“You don’t get to the point Dua’s at now if you’re not empowered and self-determined about what you’re doing,” says Morris, who returned to New York from her temporary home in Alabama for the first time since last March to report the story. “But culture has historically been so uncomfortable with women and power that there’s often been a pressure to hide it or subvert it in some way. Dua doesn’t have a pose like that — she doesn’t seem to have a theory about her own empowerment. It just is. That’s really modern. Maybe it’s just her personality. But I think there’s a reason someone with that personality has had a breakthrough in this particular moment in time.”

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