Freeman Cebu Entertainment

Dua Lipa’s ‘Radical Optimism’ May Not Be Everyone’s Cup of Tea

Januar Junior Aguja - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines — The release of Dua Lipa’s follow-up to her critically acclaimed pop record “Future Nostalgia” couldn’t come at a better time as this year’s summer season has kicked off for the rest of the world. You could already tell Lipa is ready for the summer just by looking at its cover art which features her swimming in the sea.

In the British-Albanian pop star’s third studio album “Radical Optimism”, she is not letting issues ruin her ideals of romance as she remains “radically optimistic” about love. If you are a fan, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that she is a hopeless romantic throughout her three-album run that started from her 2017 self-titled debut.

Romance as a topic on a pop album is a tale old as time, yet it never feels redundant to hear these same themes all over again depending on how the artist approaches it. While Lipa may not be as autobiographical as Taylor Swift or Olivia Rodrigo, nor does she have the vocal prowess of Adele or Ariana Grande, she has this je ne sais quoi that makes her appealing.

She’s an “it” girl, yet you don’t get the feeling that she’d look down on you. She’s that woman at the party who wants to know every single person in the room. Her friendly, socializing vibe in interviews and in her podcast “At Your Service” makes her an endearing personality, which is why her music resonates with many.

If a beautiful Albanian woman with a British accent has gone through these highs and lows in a relationship, you probably went through them too. And she wants to hear what you have to say because she has her own stories to tell.


“Radical Optimism” begins the third chapter of Lipa’s music career after coming from a successful four years from “Future Nostalgia” which retained its relevancy in an age where eras come and go due to shorter attention spans.

The main producers of this album are two prominent musicians in the industry: Kevin Parker, frontman of Australian band Tame Impala, and Danny L Harle, one of the pioneers of the hyperpop genre through the PC Music collective where he was a former member.

Early reports suggested that the record may have a psychedelic pop sound, which isn’t surprising given the involvement of Parker, whose band is known  for psychedelic rock, and Harle’s unorthodox approach to pop music which some would describe as trippy and energetic.

Despite having these strong names working together to help Lipa execute her ideas, it’s puzzling that the album is not even quite close to psychedelic pop.

The album starts strong with “End of an Era” and the following two singles “Houdini” and “Training Season”, which should have defined the sound that listeners expected. It then gets a little mellow with “These Walls”, “Whatcha Doing”, and “French Exit.” While each one is good on its own, the album loses its momentum with these three songs.

It got back on its feet with “Illusion” (the third single), “Falling Forever” and “Anything for Love”, which showcased some of the best of what Lipa has as a performer and as a singer, although the latter disappointingly ended too quickly. Some wonder if an extended version exists and if we would get to hear it, considering the singles had extended versions released on streaming.

The album ends on an underwhelming note with “Maria and “Happy for You”. While these make sense as closers thematically, it’s uncertain if it’s worth it for listeners to go back to the record from start to end again or just listen to the best songs such as the “End of an Era”, “Falling Forever” and “Anything for Love.”

Common complaints state that the album’s production left much to be desired, considering the involvement of Parker and Harle. One reviewer (@musicstruggles1) on X (formerly Twitter) pointed out that the short length of the tracks didn’t give enough breathing room to let its production shine.

“The tracks been squeezed and vacuum-packed into radio-friendly three-minute songs; this doesn’t allow the more interesting ideas time to breathe, and there are massive shades of psych and dance music in this new sound Dua and Kevin Parker have cooked up together. It would be wonderful to hear an extended version of this album to hear the full extent of their ideas.”

If you hear the extended versions of “Houdini”, “Training Season” and “Illusion”, you can sense its psychedelic pop influences more clearly than its original three-minute versions.

Aside from possibly being trimmed for radio appeal, the shortened tracks may be due to logistics in record pressing where the album’s vinyl release only has 1 LP (long playing) record with varying colored variants as each side of the record is capable of holding up to 25 minutes of music.

While it’s common for albums to be released on vinyl with 2 LPs, it may have been more feasible to have one album pressed in 1 LP for it to be released on time on the same day it dropped on streaming. Vinyl production takes months to process and there are only few vinyl record factories worldwide that can accommodate the high demand.

There’s no denying that “Radical Optimism” is a catchy record much like her previous ones. It just feels a bit disappointing considering that “Future Nostalgia” had songs where the deep cuts are just as memorable as the singles.

Most of the best songs in “Radical Optimism” were released as singles, which makes it feel like the promotion may have shown the album’s big guns too early, or there are not a lot of remarkable songs to select from its 36-minute record. A shorter album with 11 tracks should have been memorable, yet its production lacked that certain oomph in the final product.

Sadly, “Radical Optimism” is not bad on its own. It was just overshadowed by expectations of a strong follow-up to “Future Nostalgia” which had more memorable highs.

Where Dua Lipa can go next

Despite the critics, “Radical Optimism” is not a flop. The album had the biggest opening week for a British artist since the release of Adele’s 2021 album “30” according to The Official Charts Company in the UK.

And even with the last-minute announcement, thousands showed up for her Times Square, New York gig last May 6. Her prior performances of “Illusion” and “Happy for You” on Saturday Night Live – where she did double-duty as host and musical guest – were also praised by viewers and critics.

One of the things consistent about Lipa is that she is a committed and confident performer that people will tune in to no matter what. For what it’s worth, this album may sound better on a concert tour. Live Nation Philippines teased that Lipa may stop by the Philippines soon for the album’s tour.

Another element that makes her endearing is that she is receptive to reactions – a refreshing attitude whereas some of her peers would lump bashers and well-meaning critics as haters.

To recall, she received flak over her lack of stage presence in her early career shown in her 2018 Billboard Music Awards performance of “New Rules”, and her viral dancing meme of “One Kiss” that got a comment “Go girl give us nothing…”

Instead of letting these get to her, she used the comments to improve. Indeed, she became much better when she started the “Future Nostalgia” era with her performance of “Don’t Stop Now” at the 2019 MTV Europe Music Awards. Her growth continues to show in recent performances.

Perhaps, Lipa will use whatever is being said about “Radical Optimism” and return to the drawing board. She had told New Zealand DJ Zane Lowe on his Apple Music show that she already envisioned what her third album might sound like when she was still making her 2017 debut record.

Lipa is probably five steps ahead than most of us realize, and it will be interesting to see where she will go next.

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