Vulnerability and Fresh Love in Dua Lipa’s “Radical Optimism”

Following the previous celestial, ‘80s-style “Future Nostalgia,” Dua Lipa lands her spacecraft on the sunny beaches of summer. 

Dua Lipa crowned herself the positive pop princess of the summer in her new album “Radical Optimism.” 

Following the previous celestial, ‘80s-style “Future Nostalgia,” Dua Lipa lands her spacecraft on the sunny beaches of summer. 

“Here she goes again,” Lipa says in the middle of the opening track “End Of An Era.” 

The track is a smooth transition from her previous era on “Future Nostalgia” mixed with the catchy rhythm of her “Barbie” single, “Dance The Night.” In this track, Lipa establishes the album’s main theme — love. Faint church bells ring while the signature synths of a Lipa track guide her vocals from beginning to end. 

“Houdini,” which was released as the first of three singles Nov. 9, debuted in the highest slot on Billboard’s Hot Dance/Electronic Songs Chart and inspired its own TikTok dance trend following the singer’s 2024 Grammy performance

It’s not simply a song about ghosting, the act of cutting off a relationship without explanation, but more broadly Lipa’s disdain towards short-term relationships. The keyboard mixed with Lipa’s adlibs lead the listener to the infectious musical interlude before cutting off with a final, “Catch me or I go Houdini.” 

Don’t sit down just yet. The following track, and second single released Feb. 15, “Training Season” is just as irresistible. Lipa, cautious of new love, sings of finding the perfect lover atop electric guitar and a repetitive beat. The song follows the same songwriting equation as the previous track to become a dance and pop hit. 

The fast-paces slow down only slightly in “These Walls,” where the beat takes the backseat to Lipa’s opulent vocals. Lipa sings of the walls she is putting up against her partner, leading to the breakdown of a relationship. Although the song leans upbeat, the lyrics offer a somber tone, a combination which has produced some of Lipa’s best songs. 

“They’d tell us, “Go and face your fears” / It’s getting worse the longer that we stay together / We call it love, but hate it here / Did we really mean it when we said forever?” Lipa sings. 

“Whatcha Doing” is Lipa at her most confident and comfortable. The growth from her 2017 debut self-titled album is evident by her vocal range, both on its own and alongside well-placed musical pauses and the development of her signature synth. 

Acoustic guitar, drums and a pan flute flow through “French Exit,” a term which is often called an Irish exit — the act of leaving without notice. While in “Houdini,” the disappearing act is solitary, “French Exit” is an escape into a tryst. 

An occasional distortion to Lipa’s voice makes her sound as if she’s speaking through a phone, adding texture to an already well-layered song. The sixth track is an experimental one in Lipa’s discography, but she executes it with ease. 

“Illusion,” the last of three singles released April 11, is a return to the singer’s dance-inspired songs. The track about seeing someone’s fabricated personality begs listeners not only to groove, but to jump and let their bodies flow free. The second person lyrics create a back-and-forth between Lipa and an unheard love interest. 

A belting Lipa introduces “Falling Forever” by mimicking a film-style scream. The near-four-minute song is a testament to the artist’s vocal prowess. While Lipa has spent the majority of the album in the grips of reservation towards love, on the eighth track she turns towards vulnerability. 

“Anything For Love” provides the opportunity for the singer to strictly define love. The track begins with Lipa and her friends speaking before transitioning into a ruminative, piano-backed solo just before she’s joined by uncredited backing singers and an upbeat tune. 

“But I’m not interested in a love that gives up so easily / I want a love that’s set on keeping me / When it hurts, we don’t even think to cut it off / Remember when (Remember when) we used to do anything for love?” Lipa sings. 

The penultimate track “Maria” is an ode to interpersonal connection, and the long-lasting effects people have on each other. Lipa sings a thankful tune towards her partner’s ex, named Maria. Lipa expresses gratitude towards past lovers and the growth that comes with heartbreak. The song hears the return of acoustic Spanish-style guitar, the pan flute and a rippling beat. 

“Never thought I could feel this way / Grateful for all the love you gave / Here’s to the lovers that make you change / Maria, Maria, Maria,” Lipa gratefully sings. 

The final song, “Happy For You” is the album’s sunny, high noon. As Lipa’s message returns to vulnerability, looking for love and being open to new lovers despite the chance of getting her heart broken again. By looking at an ex-partners new relationship, she realizes her capacity for love is larger than her well of regret and despair. 

The singer has cemented her production style, lyrical pen and her vocal prowess in “Radical Optimism.” The album synthesizes the songwriting of “Dua Lipa” and the production of “Future Nostalgia” into one near-flawless album. 

The positivity of “Radical Optimism” is available now on all major streaming platforms.

Featured image courtesy of Warner Records

Xavier Barrios

Xavier Barrios