With a string of attitude-laden synthpop bangers and a 90s-inspired style to die for, it’s no surprise Dua Lipa has become one of 2016’s most talked about pop stars.
The London-born artist mixes a blend of different styles to create her self-described ‘dark pop’ sound, and took the charts by storm this year with singles Hotter Than Hell and Blow Your Mind (Mwah) – if you’re not already paying attention, you should be.
After performing sold-out shows around Europe and making her television debut in America, Dua is preparing for the release of her highly-awaited self-titled debut album, which is finally due out in February next year.
We caught up with the rising star to talk LGBT rights, musical inspirations, and her unique brand of girl power…
Your debut album is out next February, and it seems like it’s been a long time coming. Are you excited to finally get it out? Yeah, I’m really, really excited. I think it’ll be really interesting to see what people think – I don’t think it’s what anyone is expecting. All the songs that people have heard so far are very pop, but I’ve been describing the album as dark pop, and I feel like when it’s out people will really get to see how diverse it is and how different it is as well. I recently released a song called Room For 2, and people were quite surprised by it because they didn’t expect a song like that to come from me. There’ll be a lot more where that came from.
What specifically makes your music ‘dark pop’? For my darker stuff it’s more about story telling. I get a lot of my inspiration from sad things, those are the things that stick in my mind for the longest. So I think that’s what makes it dark – all the sad stories that I have to tell.
You were in America to perform on The Today Show recently, how was that? I only went for 24 hours! It was really, really fun and really exciting to get to do another American TV show, though.
For a lot of artists, breaking into America is the ultimate dream. Would you say that’s true for you too? Yeah, I mean for me, I want to try to get my music out to as many people as possible. It means that one day I can hopefully go out and do a world tour. It’s really exciting to hear my music on the radio over there, go on TV shows, and meet fans in places that are so far away from home. That’s definitely the goal.
There’s a lot of confidence and attitude in your music – where does this come from? I mean, I feel like the best example is Hotter Than Hell, the reason I wrote that song was because I was going through a really bad breakup and I was fucking upset, but I didn’t want to go into the studio and write a song that made me seem sad or vulnerable. I wanted to be strong, and I wanted to be empowered, and I wanted it to look like I didn’t give a fuck. With that song I had to completely flip the story and pretend like I broke his heart, and not the other way around, and that helped me get over the situation. Now when I sing the song, it’s something I can dance to and have a really fun time with. It’s completely different to what it initially was about, and I love that.
Were there any other artists you admired growing up? I’ve always been obsessed with Nelly Furtado and P!nk and Destiny’s Child and Christina Aguilera. Honestly, when the song from Moulin Rouge came out, with all of the pop princesses slaying, that was such an iconic moment! I was like, ‘Fuck, they’re amazing!’ Except when you’re in school and you don’t really know what they’re singing about, and you’re singing it until someone corrects you and goes, ‘You shouldn’t be saying that!’ [Laughs] But yeah, that was like a proper iconic moment for pop.
Honestly, when the song from Moulin Rouge came out, with all of the pop princesses slaying, that was such an iconic moment! I was like, ‘Fuck, they’re amazing!’
The music video for Blow Your Mind (Mwah) almost feels like a celebration of queerness – the models are quite androgynous and there’s an LGBT Pride flag in there. What was the thought process behind all that? The vision for the video was to have a girl gang, or just a gang, that everyone can be a part of. It was like, campaigning for niceness. I feel like I wanted to touch on so many different things, quite serious topics happening in the world, but without making it too political or too serious. I wanted to do my form of representation, and to have fun with it. Like, I took quotes from the Mean Girls movie and instead of saying, ‘You can’t sit with us’, I changed it to, ‘You can sit with us’. There were loads of different things in that video that were about girl power and gay pride and showing support for the LGBT+ community, as well as just having fun on the day and doing whatever the fuck we wanted [Laughs].
Do you think it’s important that artists show solidarity with minorities like the LGBT+ community? I think artists should really use their power and presence on social media to just put it out there and show support. It’s important because different people look up to them, and they should use that voice to their advantage. So yeah, absolutely.
And you supported Troye Sivan on his tour last month, he’s obviously a big LGBT+ icon… I’m obsessed with him!
I think we all are… He’s the sweetest person I’ve ever had the opportunity to work with. His fans are amazing as well, and we all felt so welcome on that tour. It didn’t feel like a support tour, it felt like every night we were going out and doing a mini-show, and Troye and his team and his band are really great. It was just really fun!
It would be awesome if you guys did a song together. Yeah, I would love that! We’ve become good friends, so who knows? We might do. Maybe one day…
You’ve also got a new song out with Sean Paul, how did that come about? I got sent that song because it was written by my friends Emily and Andrew and I loved it. I’m always really skeptical of doing features because I feel like I’ve tried so hard to get my own music out there first, and it’s scary to do a song that has no relevance to your life. I always like to make sure that it’s something that represents me or something that I would sing. But when I heard No Lie, I loved it, and I found it really fun, so I went straight into the studio and recorded it.
It was really weird because I hadn’t met Sean but we were on this track together, so it was great to finally meet him – I met him a couple of weeks ago, and he’s really cool, but the whole time I was just thinking of the Baby Boy era and in my head I was like, ‘God, eight-year-old me would have been so chuffed!’ I was already really excited but eight-year-old me would have probably screamed [Laughs].
You performed at G-A-Y in London earlier this year – how was it performing for such a large LGBT+ crowd? It was so fun! I mean I always love it, they’re always up for a party. It was really fun and again it was a really welcoming and inclusive crowd, so I felt at home.
Is there anything else we can expect from you soon? Well the new video for Be The One just came out, it’s my next UK single and I’ve got the actor Ansel Elgort in the video. I think I’ll have a couple more surprises before the album’s out too, so yeah, hold tight!
Dua Lipa’s self-titled debut album is out 10 February 2017 and is available to pre-order on iTunes now.