Dua Lipa interview: New Rules for Living with No 1
What do you do when your new album has just reached number one? Crack open the fizz, head out for a night of clubbing, splash the cash?
Nope. None of these. The answer is cut your boyfriend’s hair and do a bit of baking.
Because singer Dua Lipa, with two Grammys, three Brits, two MTV Europe Music Awards and a string of international single hits, a platinum first album and now a chart-topping second with Future Nostalgia, is in lockdown like the rest of us, thanks to that great leveller, coronavirus.
Lockdown in London
When she talks to us from the flat she shares in London, so far the 24-year-old’s day has included cutting edge activities such as taking the scissors to Anwar Hadid’s hair and having a rummage through the fridge.
“We’re here… but it’s been good, you know,” she says, her famously husky voice sounding relaxed and content.
“We’ve been really optimistic and been planning little activities and things to do. We’ve been cooking. And now the weather is nice you can pop your head out the window, go in the garden, and it lifts your spirits.”
Launching a Number One
Not that Lipa doesn’t have a strong work ethic – she’s also been promoting the album online to her 4.4 million Twitter followers and doing interviews.
“It’s surreal. It’s crazy, doing an album launch from home. My first number one album. I’m doing promo on my phone and laptop and lots of calls on FaceTime, releasing films of my live performances. Using all this technology to do it, it’s been such a fun learning curve.”
However, any celebratory excess Lipa might have indulged in has been mostly pastry. A spinach and feta filo pie in fact, flavoured with nostalgia from her Kosovar Albanian roots and upbringing, and yes, we can have the recipe.
But first, brushing flakes of filo from her perfect pout, in laid-back London tones tinged with a smile, Lipa is talking about the album.
“I’m over the moon about it,” she says. Make that this month’s pink supermoon.
The album is a feelgood, pump it up serving of dance-pop, disco, electronica, influenced by the sounds of the 1980s and 1990s and inspired by heroes such as Gwen Stefani, Moloko, Blondie, Madonna and Outkast. It reflects the music her parents played when she was growing up and Break My Heart, which she wrote herself, samples the melody of INXS’s 1987 hit Need You Tonight, while Physical harks back to the Lycra-leotard workouts of daytime TV.
Released early by Warners after it was leaked before its 3 April launch date it powered straight to the top of the charts, like its four singles – title track Future Nostalgia, Physical, Break My Heart and promotional single Don’t Start Now. It’s even outperforming national cheero Lewis Capaldi’s Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent (2).
With the album Lipa wanted to challenge the idea that pop is a lesser form of music with candy floss concerns, for example dealing with gender stereotypes on the track Boys Will Be Boys.
“Everybody has their own kind of perception of what they think about pop music, and many think it’s manufactured,” she says. “So I’m trying to get away from that, and show people what it can be.”
Born and raised in Camden, London, Lipa worked in a bar and as a model, then signed with Warner Music Group, her 2017 self-titled debut album reaching number three in the UK charts. It also had UK number ones with the singles IDGAF and New Rules, topped the charts in the US, Canada and Australia, and went platinum.
In 2018 she won the Brit for British Female Solo Artist and British Breakthrough Act and One Kiss with Calvin Harris won her the 2019 Brit Award for Song of the Year. In 2019 she lifted a Grammy for Best New Artist, and Electricity, a duet with Silk City, won another Grammy for Best Dance Recording.
Now the new album, Future Nostalgia, is number one, with lead single Don’t Start Now reaching number two in the UK and US charts.
Tour posponed to 2021
If all goes according to plan, Lipa will be touring the album from January next year. This year’s UK and European arena tour were postponed, as well as her appearance in May at the Radio One Big Weekend in Dundee and unlike last year, when she performed there, she won’t be at Glastonbury. After the lockdown, she predicts, we’ll all be ready to let our hair down.
“I am soooo looking forward to it. I can’t wait. I was excited to be starting a tour at the end of April, but obviously, things happened…
“So I think next year we’re all gonna to be ready to party again and get together. I think it will be perfect. I’m very excited.” As for the Glasgow date, Lipa declares herself “a big fan of Scotland”.
“I love performing there. Of course, Calvin and I worked together too,” she says, referring to Scottish record producer Calvin Harris.
Lipa also has fond memories of enjoying Glasgow’s after-gig night life and the nation’s culinary heritage.
“We were there on tour and I had such a great night out afterwards. We went to Nice N Sleazy’s and finished off the night on the street corner eating deep fried Mars Bars, so we had the full Glasgow experience.”
And does a deep fat fryer feature in the Lipa lockdown kitchen so she can recreate the post-club treat?
“Oh God, no. I’m trying to stop snacking. I feel like I’ve been eating non-stop. Since I’ve been in lockdown every trip I make to the kitchen I’m getting something out of the fridge. We’ve been bad with our eating habits while we’re all indoors,” she says, and tells me about the latest thing she’s been making, her description revealing the “bit of this, bit of that” recipe that she’s grown up eating.
Dua Lipa’s Pita Me Spinaq (Spinach Pie).
“It’s an amazing thing called pita, which is pastry with spinach and cheese.
“It’s so delicious and it’s just really, really easy to make at home. It’s with very thin pastry, the same kind you would use for baklava, filo, if you can. So mix up torn spinach, egg, oil, feta cheese all together, and just put it between the pastry.
“It’s really easy. And it tastes so good – and looks good too.”
So that’s tonight’s tea sorted, Dua Lipa’s Pita Me Spinaq (Spinach Pie).
As well as her culinary tastes, her musical tastes were formed by her upbringing alongside younger sister Rina with their Kosovar Albanian parents, who left Pristina in 1992. For Lipa, the sound of the 1980s is associated with good times.
“That music reminds me of my childhood so much, it’s the memories I have from my parents and the music they loved to listen to. Mum and dad liked Jamiroquai and Moloko, and my dad especially loved Prince, but it was such a mixture of music that was constantly being played around my house.
“They’re still the songs that we all like to listen to together and they always bring back really good memories of having so much fun, of love and happiness. So I wanted to create my own version of that.”
She’s busy creating her own happy memories right now in lockdown, making the most of a bad situation and staying indoors to help prevent the spread of the virus.
Apart from launching a no 1 album, haircuts and home cooking, what have Lipa and Hadid been up to?
“Eating,” she says immediately. “So we’re going for runs and exercising too. I don’t know… we’re making it up as we go along,” she says.
Being one of the top ten most streamed female artists on Spotify, of course she has music on the go all the time.
“We have playlists on anything and everything… from the new Rosalia and Gorillaz to Tame Impala… so that’s been fun. I listen to all kinds of music, I don’t necessarily discriminate. If I hear something and I like it, I listen to it. But for me, pop and hip-hop and British rock is really kind of my heart.”
So how did the haircut she’s just given model boyfriend Anwar Hadid (brother of Gigi and Bella) turn out? Like he’s worth it, or pudding bowl?
“Yeah, we’ve been having a RIGHT giggle about that. But no, it’s good. It is! We did half and half, like I did some and then I had to stop, and he did some, and then I kind of joined in a little bit again. But yeah, he looks great!” she says.
Given that Hadid is a model like his sisters, he hasn’t exactly been battered with the ugly stick in the first place and could probably carry off a multitude of dos, from the mullet to a comb-over.
“Hmmm. And also, when you’re inside it kind of doesn’t really matter anyway. And it’s fun,” she says.
True, so has Lipa let him return the favour and have a go at her blonde on black locks?
“Eh… no. I mean with my bleached hair there’s almost nothing left of it, it’s just so damaged. So I’m kind of leaving it to grow and recover from that. And then later, I’ll maybe play around and do some other stuff with it.”
Aw go on, let him cut it.
“Ok I will,” she says and laughs.
Staying social on new media
As well as growing up with eclectic music tastes in the cultural melting pot that is London, Lipa is also part of a generation weaned on social media and nurtured by the internet, for good or bad.
“I think there’s a very fine line there, you know, and it’s very hard sometimes to navigate,” she says.
It’s no surprise she’s cautious. With millions of followers and the level of streaming she generates, you don’t escape without being trolled or attacked and Lipa isn’t backward about fighting back and pointing out if something is hurtful. It’s telling that these days her tweets are mainly work-orientated and that in conversation, while she’s very relaxed and friendly, she’s also careful, not given to thinking aloud or going out on a limb with anything that could be misconstrued in print, the hallmark of someone who’s accustomed to media scrutiny and learnt the hard way how to handle it.
Take the recent internet backlash when she was seen partying in LA with fellow A-lsiters Lizzo, Rosalía and Lil Nas X after her Grammy awards performance.
Slated for being in a strip club, where Lizzo was hosting a party, she refused to apologise and defended women’s rights to choose for themselves.
“That’s the only way I’m reacting to any of that,” she says. “You know, if I had felt that something really wrong was happening then yes, I would get up and apologise for what I did, but I didn’t. I think we have to support all women... so that’s that.”
She’s well aware that opting out of the digital era isn’t an option and as we can all testify right now, we’re all the more dependent on it so simply switching off isn’t realistic. Instead, she urges us to “be kind” out there on the web.
“We need to share the idea of be kind, be more supportive of each other, be encouraging of what others are doing and have courtesy. I think as long as we try and promote kindness it will be OK.”
As for post-lockdown plans, Lipa’s are music related but she does harbour a hankering to appear on TV with a part in the long-running drama American Horror Story, like her hero Lady Gaga, who played it up as a vampire countess and a witchy woodswoman in two of the series’ storylines.
“I would love to do that. I wouldn’t want do acting right now – I don’t think I’m quite there yet, I think I should focus on music – but if I was to try TV it would have to be something as crazy as a show like that.”
And if Dua Lipa’s on your current lockdown playlist and her music becomes part of the soundtrack for 2020, the months when the world stood still, she’s good with that.
“Making this music, obviously I envisioned it being heard outside and in clubs and bars and you know... this is very different...
“But it reminds me of good times at home during whatever crazy was going on in the world. And hopefully it’s a little bit of something to brighten up the day.”
A little bit of Future Nostalgia.
Dua Lipa’s new album Future Nostalgia is out now.
Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia Tour, due to start January 2021, comes to the SSE Hydro, Glasgow, Monday, 4 January
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