Dua Lipa – ‘Radical Optimism’ review: bound to be a summer staple

On album number three, Dua Lipa is here for a good time and a long time.


When Dua Lipa released ‘Future Nostalgia’, it came at a time when people needed an escape. 2020’s disco indebted record became the soundtrack to countless kitchen discos during the unsettling Covid-19 lockdown, and then, once restrictions eased, it became an album ready to soundtrack your first nights back out (indeed, the critically lauded ‘Future Nostalgia’ tour in 2022 was a celebratory, sparkling pop show filled with joyful abandon).

While ‘Future Nostalgia’ found joy on the dancefloor, for its follow-up, Lipa’s third album ‘Radical Optimism’, she finds joy in the resilience of living your life and the freedom that making difficult decisions to move forward can bring. In making the album she explained that she was inspired by its title phrase, reflecting in a statement: “It’s a concept that resonated with me, and I became more curious as I started to play with it and weave it into my life…It struck me – the idea of going through chaos gracefully and feeling like you can weather any storm.” As Lipa sings on the record’s opening track ‘End Of An Era’: “I feel like we’re going to be together/this could be the end of an era/who knows baby, this could be forever”.

For ‘Radical Optimism’ she delved into new sonic worlds, the glittering disco balls of ‘Future Nostalgia’ meshed with cooler, psych-flecked instrumentals. Lipa said she was influenced by “the music history of psychedelia, trip hop, and Britpop”, and while you may not be able to pick out these new inspirations distinctly (this is still clearly a pop album), the songs are bolstered by new collaborators that include innovative electronic producer Danny L. Harle and Tame Impala legend Kevin Parker.


It’s a more restrained affair than its predecessor: while there are undeniable pop earworms they’re fused with slick spacey sounds and psych-laced production. Lead single ‘Houdini’ is a slinky smash, all taught beats and sultry layered vocals. ‘French Exit’ – an ode to leaving the party without telling a potential beau, we’ve all been there – is built around a sinuous guitar riff, its chorus a siren call to the dancefloor; and ‘Falling Forever’ is a joyride of eurodance and 80s pop.

Meanwhile album closer ‘Happy for You’, which opens with lush tweeting birdsong, erupts into a chorus ready made for montages of triumphs during this year’s Olympic games.

There are quieter moments too: ‘These Walls’ is a breezy cut that harkens back to the dreamier moments of Katy Perry’s debut album ‘One of the Boys’, all sundrenched instrumentals and a driving-with-the-top-down chorus. A wind-swept, sand in your toes anthem that’s sugary sweet, it may lack the sonic bite of other album tracks, but these instrumentals are juxtaposed with the searing chorus that delivers: “If these walls could talk/they’d tell us to break up”.

It’s not always a home run – the bouncing ‘Whatcha Doing’ feels like a retread of the sleepier moments on ‘Future Nostalgia’ – but for the most part ‘Radical Optimism’ is a sure to be summer staple. An album destined to be on repeat as we hit the warmer months (and as Lipa headlines Glastonbury later this year) and studded with moments of pop euphoria, it’s a reminder we could all use some ‘Radical Optimism’.

Dua Lipa – 'Radical Optimism'
dua-lipa-radical-optimism-reviewReleased Friday May 3 2024