Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Liner Notes: ‘Radical Optimism’ falls short of Dua Lipa’s past work

Although+%E2%80%9CRadical+Optimism%E2%80%9D+succeeds+in+sounding+groovy+and+worthy+of+a+dance+floor%2C+the+album+lacks+cohesion+and+depth.
Illustration by Ziye Wang
Although “Radical Optimism” succeeds in sounding groovy and worthy of a dance floor, the album lacks cohesion and depth.

Despite its title, “Radical Optimism,” I feel pretty pessimistic about Dua Lipa’s latest album, released Thursday night.

In line with her snappy two-word album names, Lipa’s third studio album, “Radical Optimism,” comes four years after her 2020 album “Future Nostalgia.” Infused with funky beats and 80’s disco influences, “Future Nostalgia” received rave reviews and catalyzed the revival of disco in pop music.

“Radical Optimism” simply is not as memorable or as hit-worthy as Lipa’s past work.

Aiming for a summery vibe with a touch of 70’s psychedelia, Lipa sang goodbye to synth beats with a more natural, toned-down production. Although “Radical Optimism” succeeds in sounding groovy and worthy of a dance floor, the album lacks cohesion and depth.

Some tracks, like “Houdini” and “Training Season,” feel like a welcomed continuation of the dance anthems from “Future Nostalgia.” Others, such as “These Walls” and “French Exit,” feel like soft, beachy jams. Another, “Falling Forever,” is one very long belt, with little vocal variation.

It’s confusing whether you’re listening to Lipa’s past discography, her new album or a snippet from “Barbie the Album.” The lack of a uniform sound makes “Radical Optimism” feel messy and scattered.

Lipa’s music has never been too personal or vulnerable. I commend her for achieving pop-star status without revealing too much of her own life. Yet, it’s difficult to pinpoint whether she’s actually experienced the emotions on the tracklist of “Radical Optimism.”

Some of the lyrics are too overarching and bland: “If these walls could talk / They’d tell us to break up” and “It’s not a broken heart if I don’t break it” just don’t pack an emotional punch. Anyone could have sung these songs. With her extensive writing team, you’d think Lipa’s lyrics would be more refined.

But Lipa does know how to make a commercially successful hit. Short run times, punchy choruses and simple-but-catchy lyrics are her forte. She shines in “Houdini,” “Training Season” and “Illusion” with their tongue-in-cheek one-liners and strong beats. “Radical Optimism’s” singles are sure to be summer anthems these next few months. They may be too good for the album, starkly standing out from the other tracks.

Had anyone else released this album, I would probably have regarded it more positively. But Lipa has proved that she can innovate and truly change the trajectory of pop music, and “Radical Optimism” doesn’t showcase her full potential.

“Radical Optimism” is devoid of much of what made Lipa most popular. Here, her inventive production has been pulled back. Besides the lead singles, the concepts of the songs are forgettable.

Knowing that Lipa is capable of creating a near-perfect album, I hope she can regain her grounding.

Email: [email protected]
X: @mayaw0ng

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