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Dua Lipa’s ‘Radical Optimism:’ Dance-pop and psychedelia captures complex emotions

Dua Lipas Radical Optimism: Dance-pop and psychedelia captures complex emotions

English singer-songwriter Dua Lipa, the name behind hits including “Levitating” and “Dance the Night,” released her third studio album, “Radical Optimism” on May 3. Like her album released in 2021, “Future Nostalgia,” “Radical Optimism” features 11 songs.

Over the years, styles such as disco and dance-pop have been prevalent in her music. However, “Radical Optimism” shifts toward a more neo-psychedelic, retro style that she cleverly combines with her classic dance-pop roots. The name of the album was part of the inspiration for a style change. Inspired by the term, which emphasizes calmness and positivity in chaotic situations, Lipa began research on styles such as psychedelia, trip-hop, and brit-pop.

The lead single of the album, “Houdini,” has already found prominence among social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok. A snappy tune with a composition similar to Michael Jackson’s, Lipa creates a flirtatious vibe with her lyrics. She sings, “I’m not here for long, catch me or I go Houdini,” alluding to the infamous magician while challenging a possible lover. Houdini combines a seductive bass line, a sassy cowbell, and retro-inspired synth chords that give the song an overall bold feel that inspires power and movement.

The rest of the songs continue this psychedelic-dance pop fusion, such as “Illusion,” one of the faster-paced tracks on the album. Continuing with the magic motif, Lipa asserts her individuality, singing, “Don’t know who you think that you’re confusin’, I be like, Ooh, it’s amusin’, you think I’m gonna fall for an illusion.” Assuming she is talking to a possible lover, she sees through their act, deeming it an illusion and turning them away. Additionally, throughout the song, Lipa repeats, “Dance all night,” adding a more lighthearted touch to the powerful song. She combines her powerful voice with sharp piano chords and ringing bells to punctuate each note.

Exploring the last facet of the album, Lipa’s “French Exit” takes a step back from the more electronic style of the album. In the song, Lipa eloquently evokes the feeling of how hard it is to say goodbye. A French exit is when one leaves a gathering without saying goodbye, hence Lipa’s lyric, “‘Goodbye doesn’t hurt if I don’t say it.” Her vocals are backed by a simpler track that gives the listener a refresher from the more intense tracks of the other songs. She demonstrates the pain of saying goodbye in an upbeat way, hoping to soften the blow.

Each song focuses on a different struggle one may have with their lover, and Lipa accurately captures these emotions in each unique song. As Lipa explores these new styles, she builds on her already colorful musical knowledge. This album, while departing from Lipa’s usual style, signifies an exciting new direction for the captivating artist.

Grade: A

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About the Contributor
Gianluca Polenzani, Staff Reporter
Gianluca is a sophomore at Pelham Memorial High School. He was previously a reporter for the Lion Times at Prospect Hill and is excited to be writing again. He is a member of the varsity swimming and spring track teams, and he is also a part of the jazz band. In his spare time, he enjoys walking his dog, editing and reading.

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