The Decaturian is Millikin's student-run newspaper. The opinions reflected may not be those of Millikin as an institution.

The Decaturian

The Decaturian is Millikin's student-run newspaper. The opinions reflected may not be those of Millikin as an institution.

The Decaturian

The Decaturian is Millikin's student-run newspaper. The opinions reflected may not be those of Millikin as an institution.

The Decaturian

Dua Lipa Grows More Personally than Musically


Dua Lipa has been making a name for herself for about 8 years now in the pop sphere. From her breakout hits “New Rules” and “IDGAF” to her more recent nu-disco bops “Levitating” and “Break My Heart,” Lipa has been basking in the limelight her whole career without any sign of leaving. And with her third album Radical Optimism, I think this trend will continue, for better or for worse.

I myself have enjoyed a lot of Lipa’s work up to this point. She’s definitely one of the more vibrant and original popstars of this newer generation and has been on a winning streak over the past few years especially. Her album Future Nostalgia was a lockdown staple for many, as its disco and dance revival sound was able to lift everyone’s spirit in those early days of quarantine. Lipa also scored a big hit last year with “Dance the Night” as it soundtracked the iconic opening dance sequence in the blockbuster Barbie.

Along with all this continued success, Lipa had been teasing toward her third album for quite some time. We got the first taste of it in “Houdini,” which released in November of last year. This track immediately got fans and critics hyped for Lipa’s new sound as its driving, synth-heavy beat and commanding vocal performance was what everyone had been itching to hear from her for years. This track, as well as a majority of this album, is also produced by Kevin Parker of the band Tame Impala and Danny L Harle, both widely respected producers in the world of psych and synth-pop, adding that extra layer of texture and atmosphere to Lipa’s already captivating voice and way of songwriting.

Singles “Training Season” and “Illusion” are also fantastic in their own right. Both staying true to that dance and synth-pop sound “Houdini” established, they continued to entice and prepare me for this new record. But finally when Radical Optimism released on May 3, I couldn’t help but feel slightly underwhelmed.

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Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of solid, groovy cuts on this thing, but as an overall experience it can feel a bit one-dimensional and scatterbrained. I still love the singles and tracks like “End of an Era,” “Falling Forever” and especially the closer “Happy for You” are home to some of the freshest production and most crucial storytelling that reaffirms the album’s central theme of remaining optimistic even in the toughest of circumstances.

On the other hand, tracks like “These Walls,” “Anything for Love” and “French Exit” tend to fall short and can seem very tame, cliché and frail by comparison. I’m not saying Lipa has to be “all energy all the time” or anything like that. I like that she’s taking some risks here with softer moments and reflective tracks, but with rather boring, phoned-in instrumentals and lyricism, there’s not much else to offer.

These rather uninteresting deep-cuts aren’t downright bad or anything either. They can still have quite a bit of charm to them in context with the rest of the record, but if I were to come back to any tracks from this album on their own, it would still most likely be the singles and maybe the few others I mentioned previously.

While my main gripe with this album is its unevenness and how it’s maybe not as bombastic and in-your-face as Future Nostalgia was, I’m still able to find a lot to admire about it. Lipa’s more personal approach to a lot of these tracks is commendable and you can definitely hear that central theme of radical optimism throughout each individual track.

In a world where the best thing you can do as a mainstream pop artist is to just make an emotionless club anthem more or less to appease the radio and make money, I applaud Lipa for staying true to herself and making what she truly believes in. It might not be my favorite record of the year but it’s easily one of the most sincere.

My rating: 7.0/10

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About the Contributor
Eli Bland
Eli Bland, Arts Editor
Eli Bland is a Multimedia Communications major with a minor in English. Eli has had a passion for music and the arts since a young age and writing has always been his favorite way to express that. Being the Arts Editor at the Decaturian, his main focus has been on new album reviews, listicles and keeping up with Millikin's many art programs. He hopes to continue his journalism journey after graduation.

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