‘Dua Lipa Complete Edition’: Charismatic party chameleon

Ian Layugan
Like a Coachella setlist, Dua Lipa wraps up her self-titled album by baring more colors

COMPLETE EDITION. Dua Lipa is having a moment –€“ several of them, actually. Image from Dua Lipa's Instagram

Dua Lipa grows on you. Ever since she started out on YouTube at 14 fearlessly covering powerhouses like Joss Stone and Christina Aguilera, this young star is right on track in taking on new elements.

At 23, her voice is one of the most recognizable and most distinct in pop today. Her alto snatches you at first hearing, shuffling your feet on the ground beneath you as she prances to her coda.

Gripping vocals serve as a refreshing variance to disco beats dominated by clubmasters the likes of Calvin Harris and Martin Garrix — both of whom Lipa collaborated with, and have featured in the Complete Edition of her self-titled album that came out on October 19.

The album track list is a Coachella set list. Lipa’s unique vocals are sinewy and robust, emerging from snarling chords and maximal postproduction.

Her beats celebrate youthful energy, demanding us to stand up from wherever we are to sway or dance to her lead. When her debut album came out last year, it became one of the most straight-ahead party albums from a newcomer. But such self-assurance and confidence can only spring from sharp footings. Amusingly, she quipped in interviews that she wanted to mesh, and be, a sound that is equal parts Nelly Furtado and J. Cole — odd and weird. But ultimately memorable.

Like a potent pill, Lipa’s tracks are short, sweet, and seedy. She explores ideas of self and identification, braving the universal portents and predicaments of love by aggressively involving her own experiences and realizations. This is evident in her new track “Want To” where she used electro vocals while spatting the lines.

Lipa explores an idea then resemble its movement with rhythm and rhyme. This is one of the more interesting trend in pop today where the lines are clothed in metaphysical vocalization. In “Running,” Lipa emerges over strong accompaniments to vocalize her pleas and encapsulate her movements with ohs: “Where the hell we going to, oh/ I’m running, running.”

This play of syllables resonates in “Kiss and Make Up,” featuring the Korean pop group BLACKPINK. Like an impeccable dance number, the beat flourishes over the lines, masking the almost melancholic theme of struggling to patch together a dying relationship with a surrendering partner, with the bouncing vibe.

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overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;”><a href=”https://www.instagram.com/p/BpXhRtxhWW0/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_medium=loading” style=” color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none;” target=”_blank”>A post shared by DUA LIPA (@dualipa)</a> on <time style=” font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px;” datetime=”2018-10-25T19:16:43+00:00″>Oct 25, 2018 at 12:16pm PDT</time></p></div></blockquote> <script async src=”//www.instagram.com/embed.js”></script>

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This is part of Lipa’s repertoire: she blindfolds us about her depressing and imploring images of breakups and rising above it with the winsome dance and disco quality of her songs.

This track opens to us Lipa’s wise creative acumen. By collaborating with a good K-pop team, she opens the doorway to what may become a global phenomenon in the music industry. The Korean interlude in the track provides a delicious twist: incomprehensible but syllabically delectable.

Dua Lipa is most memorable in her choruses. She alternates between reflection and reprimand. When her emotions are its rawest, her vocals take center. When she goes festive, the instruments follow suit. You can count on her to come up with provoking and profound questions as you involuntarily sway to her beat. A philosopher in a party.

In “Scared to be Lonely,” Lipa asks very rousingly, “Is it just our bodies? Are we both losing our minds? Is the only reason you’re holding me tonight, ‘cause we’re scared to be lonely?” She seems to be reading from a moody journal. She’s frank, but vulnerable; orchestral yet resilient.

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<blockquote class=”instagram-media” data-instgrm-captioned data-instgrm-permalink=”https://www.instagram.com/p/BphAzYlhXGG/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_medium=loading” data-instgrm-version=”12″ style=” background:#FFF; border:0; border-radius:3px; box-shadow:0 0 1px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.5),0 1px 10px 0 rgba(0,0,0,0.15); margin: 1px; max-width:540px; min-width:326px; padding:0; width:99.375%; width:-webkit-calc(100% – 2px); width:calc(100% – 2px);”><div style=”padding:16px;”> <a href=”https://www.instagram.com/p/BphAzYlhXGG/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_medium=loading” style=” background:#FFFFFF; line-height:0; padding:0 0; text-align:center; text-decoration:none; width:100%;” target=”_blank”> <div style=” display: flex; flex-direction: row; align-items: center;”> <div style=”background-color: #F4F4F4; border-radius: 50%; flex-grow: 0; height: 40px; margin-right: 14px; width: 40px;”></div> <div style=”display: flex; flex-direction: column; flex-grow: 1; justify-content: center;”> <div style=” background-color: #F4F4F4; 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transform: translateX(16px) translateY(-4px) rotate(30deg)”></div></div><div style=”margin-left: auto;”> <div style=” width: 0px; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-right: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(16px);”></div> <div style=” background-color: #F4F4F4; flex-grow: 0; height: 12px; width: 16px; transform: translateY(-4px);”></div> <div style=” width: 0; height: 0; border-top: 8px solid #F4F4F4; border-left: 8px solid transparent; transform: translateY(-4px) translateX(8px);”></div></div></div></a> <p style=” margin:8px 0 0 0; padding:0 4px;”> <a href=”https://www.instagram.com/p/BphAzYlhXGG/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_medium=loading” style=” color:#000; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px; text-decoration:none; word-wrap:break-word;” target=”_blank”>put my thing down flip it and reverse it</a></p> <p style=” color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px; margin-bottom:0; margin-top:8px; overflow:hidden; padding:8px 0 7px; text-align:center; text-overflow:ellipsis; white-space:nowrap;”>A post shared by <a href=”https://www.instagram.com/dualipa/?utm_source=ig_embed&amp;utm_medium=loading” style=” color:#c9c8cd; font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; font-style:normal; font-weight:normal; line-height:17px;” target=”_blank”> DUA LIPA</a> (@dualipa) on <time style=” font-family:Arial,sans-serif; font-size:14px; line-height:17px;” datetime=”2018-10-29T11:45:21+00:00″>Oct 29, 2018 at 4:45am PDT</time></p></div></blockquote> <script async src=”//www.instagram.com/embed.js”></script>

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But it’s her collaboration with Calvin Harris that turns her into the mainstay that she’s becoming, something which many artists can only dream of at such a nascent point.

It is the song of the season when it came out. Her vocals ushered us with this beautiful quatrain: “One kiss is all it takes/ falling in love with me/ Possibilities/ I look like all you need.”

Harris, who is also on a creative reinvention, soars with Lipa’s talents here. Distinct vocals upon revolutionized sound, the song pays tribute to deep house. It is spirited, and despite its repetitiveness, can become quite the type of party anthem that gets on all night, whatever you do with it. Cut it, extend it.

Lipa ends the album with a takeaway from her tour: a live performance of “New Rules” in San Diego. It boasts Lipa’s ability and control over her material. Naked from every bit of technical amplification, her vocals prove to be the biggest investment in her productions — not props, not party.

“New Rules”, the mainstay track in pop playlists today, cautions the broken-hearted by counting off. “One: Don’t pick up the phone/ You know he’s only calling/ ‘Cause he’s drunk and alone/ Two: Don’t let him in/ You’ll have to kick him out again…” Quite the basic stuff, sure. But clichés are clichés for a reason. It evokes familiarity eternally by surviving every generation.

Yet, in the voice of the truly creative, genuine, and unique, it can become the freshest, most unforgettable material. – Rappler.com


Ian Layugan teaches Art History and Qualitative Research at the University of Baguio. An alumni of the Philippine Center for Gifted Education, he writes about science, community, travel, and culture.