Could Dua Lipa be the emerging ray of hope for pop music in 2016?
Some of our blog readers and radio station listeners might occasionally get the sense that our feelings towards the modern pop music landscape brim with pessimism. While this might be largely true, we have somehow managed to dig out new pop gems (not with the frequency that we would like to though – but with a far better frequency than American terrestrial radio does) from both new and veteran artists since we launched back in 2007. We do believe that in recent years, the term “pop music” has gradually morphed into something that is uninspired, lacks originality, and is more often than not overpowered by monotonous, repetitive, and tired beats that drown out any semblance of a melodic hook (which is a rarity these days). The “front and center” solo female superstars (with the exception of Adele) of today, in particular do nothing for us – and hence do rarely feature in our playlists. In fact, the last time we were truly excited about an emerging female pop star was in 2007 when American sophisticated electropop singer Samantha James released her debut album “Rise“. Almost 9 years later, we might have finally found that same optimism again. This time, it is with 20-year old British-born Albanian pop starlet Dua Lipa (pronounced doo-aah-lee-paaah).
There appears to be a widely held school of thought that life experience is of paramount importance for a singer-songwriter’s inspiration. One might wonder how this might apply for a singer as young as Dua Lipa is. Fortunately, an audacious move back to the UK at the age of 15 after having reconnected with her Kosovan heritage in Albania for four years may have paved the way for the life experience that she needed to channelize into her songs’ lyrics. During this time, while living with friends, she worked part-time while also attending theatre school part-time. More importantly, Dua used these years to hone her musical craft and in 2012, after a recording of hers on SoundCloud caught the attention of the management of sultry pop star Lana Del Ray, her dream started to materialize. The experience of teenage independence in London while chasing a dream that most consider illusory at best probably gave her sufficient fodder for the themes she has undoubtedly explored on her debut album. Sonically, she draws inspiration from hip-hop, emulates the vocals of noteworthy soul singers, and so far, has worked with a creative team that has successfully given her final product a commercially viable pop cloak. More importantly, she has proved that she sounds even better in a live environment . Her pretty face is the icing on the cake for her prospects as a potent force in pop music and contemporary pop culture. In her interviews, she reveals a strong penchant for the music being a manifestation of her creative vision as opposed to that of a producer or another songwriter. This is refreshing in an era in which budding stars opt for the quickest path to stardom – one that often compromises their own personal identities and undermines their ability to hone their artistry (a critical element especially in the early years of one’s musical career). We hope this ethic of Dua’s remains a cornerstone of all future artistic decisions. Last, but not least, Dua’s authenticity extends to her not anglicizing her name and we heartily applaud her for that.
So far, three songs of hers have seen the light of day – “New Love“, “Be the one“, and “Last Dance” (her most recent single). “New Love” is indisputably downtempo while the latter two straddle the line between downtempo and mid-tempo. That being said, the song that we believe we should showcase to introduce her to our audience is the only one that she did not pen. “Be The One” was written by Lucy Taylor. Dua Lipa makes no secret of the fact that she had reservations about recording this song but rose to the occasion when she believed she could do it justice. While the song might not be written by her, she makes it her own with her trademark soulful delivery. In fact, she commandeers the song with a confidence beyond her years. The song has already created waves in Europe and we can barely wait for it to become an essential element to the soundtrack of 2016. Furthermore, the song is bound to whet the appetite of the listener for more from this starlet. While it might seem ingenuous to make sweeping statements about an artist based on just three songs, what we can say is that the foundational elements of Dua Lipa are right. We can barely wait till her debut album releases this summer. Until then, bask in the sonic bliss of “Be The One” (we are embarrassed to be showcasing this song over 4 months late!) – especially its sublime harmony-driven chorus: