Interview: Dua Lipa On New Album 'Future Nostalgia' & The Coronavirus Quarantine NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro speaks with the pop star and songwriter about releasing her new album, Future Nostalgia, a week early and learning to connect with an audience during social isolation.
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Dua Lipa Hopes 'Future Nostalgia' Will Let You Dance During Self-Quarantine

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Dua Lipa Hopes 'Future Nostalgia' Will Let You Dance During Self-Quarantine

Dua Lipa Hopes 'Future Nostalgia' Will Let You Dance During Self-Quarantine

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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

British songwriter Dua Lipa has a new nickname. They're calling her the quarantine queen. Her previous hit "Don't Start Now" had what Vulture called a social-distancing-positive refrain. Don't show up. Don't come out. Don't start caring about me now. Now she has a new single, "Break My Heart."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BREAK MY HEART")

DUA LIPA: (Singing) I would've stayed at home 'cause I was doing better alone. But when you said hello, I knew that was end of it all.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I would've stayed at home 'cause I was doing better alone, which, these days, are indeed words to live by. It comes from her album "Future Nostalgia," which was released early, proving that Dua Lipa is not about to stop the music. She joins us now from London.

Thank you so much for being with us.

LIPA: Thank you so much for having me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I assume you're at home like everyone else. How have you been spending your days?

LIPA: Yeah. I've been doing lots of cooking and eating and catching up on those TV shows that I've never had the chance to watch.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: We have to talk about a decision you made to release your album earlier than expected. I want to play a bit of a video you posted on Instagram talking about that.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LIPA: I feel like I've been welling up a little bit over the past couple of weeks just of the uncertainty of everything. And I've been a little bit conflicted about putting music out and, you know, whether it's the right thing to do during this time because lots of people are suffering.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I mean, I can hear in your voice how hard the decision was. Tell me what you're experiencing there when you made that.

LIPA: I'd be lying if I said that just the current situation, you know, makes me well up at least five to 10 times a day. I was thinking to maybe move my album to later. But at the same time, I felt like maybe I was doing a disservice to my fans and listeners because I made this album to kind of get away from the anxiety and pressures of making a second record and to get away from other people's opinions. So I just wanted to make an album that was fun and something that I could dance to. And I just want people to be able to take a moment away from what's kind of going on outside. And I hope it gives them some happiness.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You just mentioned there that you felt a lot of pressure about the second album. Can you talk about that a little bit?

LIPA: Yeah. In all honesty, never in a million years did I think my first album was going to do what it did. You know, a song like "New Rules," for example - the video for that was like rocket fuel.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "NEW RULES")

LIPA: (Singing) One, don't pick up the phone. You know he's only calling 'cause he's drunk and alone. Two, don't let him in. You'll have to kick him out again. Three, don't be his friend. You know you're going to wake up in his bed in the morning. And if you're under him, you ain't getting over him. I got new rules.

The way everything kind of escalated with the first record was completely unpredictable. And as things got bigger, there also started to be quite a lot of opinions from other people online. And criticism started coming in thick and fast just for the sake of it, especially once, like, I was coming to the end of this album cycle. I wanted to make sure that I wasn't focusing my energy on anything negative. And I deleted my Twitter. And I just wanted to grow and mature as an artist and work towards getting better.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I have to say this album is just pure fun. There's disco beats and sort of dreamy '80s synthesizers. And not all of the songs are about being alone - in fact, quite the opposite. Here is "Physical." Let's play a bit.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PHYSICAL")

LIPA: (Singing) Let's get physical. Lights out. Follow the noise. Baby, keep on dancing like you ain't got a choice. So come on. Come on.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You know, it reminds me, of course, of the famous Olivia Newton-John song from the 1980s.

LIPA: Yes. It definitely is a nod to that. It wasn't what we set off, obviously, when we started writing it. But I think once we finished it and, you know, we saw what we made...

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter).

LIPA: ...I was very proud of the reference that kind of came alongside it, you know?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Another song that's about powering through - "Don't Start Now." Let's play it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DON'T START NOW")

LIPA: (Singing) Did a full 180 - crazy thinking about the way I was.

The album lends itself to so much, like, dancing and fun that I wanted to make it very choreography-driven throughout the whole performance and video. And when I performed "Don't Start Now" for the first time at the European Music Awards, it really kind of felt like the start of something new. And I was really just - I felt like I had grown so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DON'T START NOW")

LIPA: (Singing) Don't show up. Don't show up. Don't come out. Don't come out. Don't start caring about me now.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I gather this song is about an ex of some description.

LIPA: Yes, to some description.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DON'T START NOW")

LIPA: (Singing) Walk away. Walk away. Oh.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: With the coronavirus outbreak, musicians like yourself and others have been forced to get creative when it comes to performing and sharing your music. What's it been like doing sort of virtual performances and not going onstage where you get so much of that immediate feedback from people?

LIPA: You know, I only just this week did my second-ever livestream on Instagram. And it's interesting to see how we are when we're out of our comfort zone. You know, you're completely barefaced. And I think that it connects people on a different level because it shows that we're all the same, and we're all human. And I think that sometimes trying to make things like that interesting can be difficult - something that we all need to learn in the new age of social media. I think even after this pandemic, hopefully, we'll still be using everything that we've learned during this time to really connect with people on a different level.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Dua Lipa. Her new album is "Future Nostalgia," and it's out now.

Thank you very much.

LIPA: Thank you so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LEVITATING")

LIPA: (Singing) Come on. Dance with me. I'm levitating.

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