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Album Review: Dua Lipa – Radical Optimism

3 min read
Album Review: Dua Lipa - Radical Optimism

Since her debut in 2017, Dua Lipa has quickly become one of the biggest names in pop. With a number-one album as well as songs on the soundtrack and a cameo in 2023’s Barbie Movie, she’s fast becoming a household name. Released this week, her new album Radical Optimism once again shows off her ability to create catchy choruses and unbeatable dance pop.

The first track, End of an Era, opens the album on a mellow note, a move away from the catchy tunes that made her famous. But it ends with a strong return to form with one of her trademark catchy bridges in a spoken style. It’s followed by Houdini, which was released as the first single from the album and topped charts across Europe. It’s easy to see why as its infectious beat and catchy lyrics remind us of Lipa’s talent for creating earworms. 

Training Season debuted at the 2023 Grammys, and with its 2000s pop music-inspired dance beat, it made a splash staying at the top of the dance-pop charts. While slightly less memorable than Houdini, it’s a solid pop number with ironic humour comparing a relationship to training for a rodeo. With These Walls, Dua Lipa gives us the album’s most introspective song, detailing the end of a relationship with a slower more mature sound. The pop beat that comes through on the choruses contrasts with the more serious lyrics, creating one of the album’s more affecting numbers.

Creating Radical Optimism, Lipa expressed an interest in exploring seventies influences and these shine through most in Watcha Doin. With its rhythmic drumline and dancy chorus, it effortlessly brings disco into the 21st century.

French Exit is the song that shows off Lipa’s vocals most, with less overwhelming production. It’s a slightly less catchy song than the songs preceding it but Lipa’s voice and the interesting use of French language lyrics keep it from feeling dull. Illusion at halfway through the album is a powerful move back to a more confident sound with its dance beat and a repeated “dance all-night” layered chorus. While Falling Forever continues the positive tone with the album’s first real love song and powerful vocals.

Anything for Love has the most stripped-back production with a piano-backed opening. It brings back Lipa’s trademark drumline as the song closes moving from a sadder tone to a more hopeful optimistic one.

The penultimate song Maria, may be a surprise favourite of the album. The ballad-like lyrics and Jolene-style story of Lipa feeling insecure about her partner’s ex-girlfriend really make it stand out amongst the more traditional pop-fare of the rest of the album. The last song of the album, Happy for You ends on a slower more reflective note. It’s a rare positive break-up song, with stripped-back verses and a produced layered chorus. With this final song, Lipa embraces the Radical Optimism of the title, celebrating a relationship despite its ending. 

Radical Optimism is a consistently strong dance-pop record with some true stand-out songs. While the album may not be a radical move away from anything we’ve seen from Dua Lipa before, it’s a solid and very fun album that cements her status as a true pop star.