Dua Lipa’s ‘Radical Optimism': Euronews Culture's verdict

Dua Lipa's 'Radical Optimism' - Euronews Culture's verdict
Dua Lipa's 'Radical Optimism' - Euronews Culture's verdict Copyright Warner
Copyright Warner
By Theo FarrantJonny Walfisz
Share this articleComments
Share this articleClose Button

Celebrated British-Albanian pop singer Dua Lipa has dropped her third album - and two members of the Euronews Culture team share their verdict.


It’s been a bumper start to the year for pop fans. First there was the return of Beyoncé with ‘COWBOY CARTER’, the 27-song long second part in her purported trilogy of genre-bending albums. Then, last month came Taylor Swift’s 11th album ‘THE TORTURED POETS DEPARTMENT’, an hour-plus long album that was immediately doubled in length by the addition of 15 more songs just hours after its release.

By comparison, Dua Lipa, the British-Kosovo Albanian popstar’s third album ‘Radical Optimism’ released today is a far more taut affair with just 11 songs running at around 36 minutes.

Swift’s latest was flabby and unfocused, but has Lipa’s approach proven that less is more? The 28-year-old Lipa has only been on the scene since 2017 when her eponymous debut album’s single ‘New Rules’ instantly propelled her into stardom.

Since then, she’s released just one other album, 2020’s ‘Future Nostalgia’. Much like her debut, that was a smash hit and Lipa has toured extensively ever since, all the time evolving her brand through improved stage choreography, Elton John collaborations, a song on the Barbie soundtrack, alongside some of the most consistently slickest produced pop music of the last decade.

Has that non-prolific pop star managed it again? Two Euronews Culture journalists give their first thoughts on the album:

“Not much is radical here” (Jonny Walfisz)

Dua Lipa
Dua LipaDrew Gurian/Invision/AP

‘Radical Optimism’ starts off strongly with ‘End of an Era’, feeling like a mission statement for the entire album. A crowd cheers as we enter into a pulsing bass line over Spanish-inflected guitars while Lipa croons about being with her new beau long-term.

The chorus: “The sweetest pleasure/I feel like we're gonna be together/This could be the end of an era/Who knows, baby? This could be forever, forever” is a saccharine sweet take to start the album on. While previous music from Lipa has often focused on getting over unimpressive exes, it’s a refreshing feeling.

With Lipa’s focus on radical optimism, the song can almost be read as a rebuttal to fellow pop-girlie Swift’s recent maudlin album. Is the reference to ending an era a knowing wink?

From there, we jump into the album’s first single ‘Houdini’. Referencing the escape-artist as a metaphor for modern ghosting, this is the album’s biggest dance floor filler as Lipa questions if a lover will be impressive enough to catch her before she goes.

Over the course of the album, Lipa sticks to the theme of optimism but twists it from the opening number towards the themes of ‘Houdini’. In second single, ‘Training Season’, she continues elaborating on her demands that a partner earns the chance to be with her.

Lipa knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to ask for it. But with ‘Training Season’ things are starting to feel a little samey. Not just from the thematic similarities to ‘Houdini’ but it’s also very much in a safe area of house-influenced pop that she’s been in for almost all her singles.

What follows is the somewhat forgettable ‘These Walls’ and funky bassline notwithstanding ‘Watcha Doing’, before we reach the next raft of hits. ‘French Exit’ brings back a more acoustic set-up and creates a sultry paean to Lipa’s own restrained ability to leave things on her own terms. Small note: I would have loved to see Lipa try to seductively sing “Irish goodbye” instead of “French exit”.

‘Illusion’, the third single off the album is the first song in a while that delivers on Lipa’s brand of earnest relationship discussion over addictive pop beats. It’s a refreshingly good song after a bit of filler on this not very long album. Lipa is never bad. But while her previous hits like ‘New Rules’ and ‘Don’t Start Now’ brought a new popstar to audiences with such an incredible clarity of vision, many of the songs on here feel a bit like she’s on autopilot.

The album ends stronger. ‘Falling Forever’ has a fantastic marching drum beat that pairs with Lipa’s croaky vocals to deliver an incredible anthem – once again to a relationship lasting to eternity. ‘Anything For Love’ is a piano-into-dance song that’s short but decadently sweet.

Over ‘Maria’ and ‘Happy For You’, the album closes over two more bangers. ‘Happy For You’ revists the opening song’s broad ecstasy with Lipa musing on her being happy for an ex’s happiness. It’s a slight twist on the theme she’s been consistent on throughout.

Even the cover – a well-composed shot of Lipa in the ocean with a shark fin in the foreground – feels underwhelming compared with the neon-tinted ‘Future Nostalgia’ cover which had Lipa posing in a power position behind the wheel of a vintage car. Her second album brought a vibrant new voice to the pop scene that built on the first album’s success to create songs that will dominate dancefloors for years. By comparison, this feels at best like more of the same, and at worst like a slightly less impressive version of the Lipa we already knew.

To go full Swiftie-style conspiracy theorist on ‘Radical Optimism’, you could suggest that this is a safe third album to keep fans placated and justify a new set of high-profile tour dates including a headline slot at Glastonbury.


If so, maybe she’s setting up for a truly revolutionary take on pop for her third album. Until then, Lipa may be dealing with optimism radically over the course of the album, but disappointingly, not much is radical here. JW

"A breath of fresh air" (Theo Farrant)

Dua Lipa attends the Time100 Gala - April 2024
Dua Lipa attends the Time100 Gala - April 2024Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

I’ve been a huge fan of Lipa ever since she blessed our COVID lockdowns with her snappy nu-disco classic ‘Future Nostalgia’. Hits after hits were served, offering us a much-needed sonic escape from the monotony of being confined to our bedrooms. Needless to say, my own optimism for ‘Radical Optimism’ was sky-high.

And you know what? It didn’t disappoint. The record feels like a breath of fresh air - a collection of irresistible dance bops that conjure images of endless summer utopias and carefree vibes. In an era where lengthy albums are becoming the norm (looking at you Taylor), Lipa's 36-minute, 11-song project breezes by with bliss. And unlike certain pop stars (yes, Ms. Swift again...), you don’t need to take an extensive crash course in toxic ex-boyfriend lore and petty celebrity drama to get what Lipa is singing about.

The album opens with ‘End of An Era’, a groovy, sun-drenched pop-dance track with hints of synthy psychedelia, likely courtesy of Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker, who sprinkles his production magic on seven of the 'Radical Optimism''s tracks. This perfectly sets the joyous tone for what's to come. Following this opening gem are two lead singles, the effervescent and seductive ‘Houdini’, and the ABBA-esque ‘Training Season’, which play back to back. Expect to hear both of these dominating the European club scene this summer.

'These Walls' might be the album's first letdown. It's a pretty inoffensive and fairly forgettable mid-tempo track, struggling to compete with Kendrick Lamar's track of the same name, from his outstanding 2015 album 'To Pimp A Butterfly'. But fear not, from 'Illusion' onward, the record slips back into its dancing shoes and returns to what Lipa does best. ‘Falling Forever’ feels straight out of a Celine Dion Eurovision performance, featuring one of the British Albanian-Kosovar 28-year-old singer’s most impressive vocal performances to date. Even the brief respite of a piano ballad “Anything For Love”, soon morphs back into a cutesy upbeat strut.


‘Happy For You’, the album’s closer where Lipa expresses her joy for an ex-partner moving on, perfectly ties a knot on the overarching themes of growth, maturity, and positive thinking present throughout. Even on the tracks dealing with heartbreak and romantic confusion, Lipa’s songwriting is infused with optimism. As the cover art captures very literally, it's about keeping your cool even while swimming in shark-infested waters.

Now, I'll admit, the project might not be as "radical" as the title suggests. Lipa has stuck to her guns, building upon the winning formula she laid down four years ago with Future Nostalgia. But hey, if it ain’t broke, why try to fix it, right? While it may not reach the heights of her last album, 'Radical Optimism' still delivers plenty of dancefloor bangers, proving that Lipa is a pop princess at the top of her game. Propulsive beats, gleaming vocals, catchy melodies and polished production. I’m all here for it. And as the days get brighter and summer starts peeking around the corner, I have a feeling this album will be on heavy rotation for me. TF

Share this articleComments

You might also like