Dua Lipa takes a deep dive wearing a black one-piece swimsuit, with flowing auburn red hair on an alternative cover art for her 3rd studio album 'Radical Optimism'.
Radical Optimism

Dua Lipa - 'Radical Optimism': Album Review

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May 3, 2024

Radical Optimism finds Dua Lipa in a new era of polish and confidence, a shift from her earlier, more unfiltered releases.


ith her 3rd studio album, we meet a mature, sophisticated, and content Dua Lipa. Perhaps the "radical" in Radical Optimism is more about the journey to get here than her current state. The album itself might not be radical, but it is well-poised, and we meet a confident Dua Lipa who has proven her worth.

If her self-titled debut, Dua Lipa, was a manifestation of greatness through raw talent and willpower, and Future Nostalgia was a radical release (during a once-in-a-100-year pandemic) that may have saved everyone from insanity with its optimistic songs like "Levitating", Radical Optimism represents the journey, not just the destination.

With two albums in the top 5 most-streamed on Spotify of all time, acting roles in Barbie and Argyle, a podcast (Dua Lipa: At Your Service) where she has interviewed over 100 guests (including Tim Cook, who flew to London to be interviewed by Dua from the comfort of her living room couch) on seemingly out-of-her-depth topics like AI, the biggest artist newsletter and book club in the world (Service95), her own production, management, and publishing company (RADICAL22), Europe’s best new music festival (Sunny Hill Festival, featuring artists like Miley Cyrus, Calvin Harris, Martin Garrix, J Balvin),  her charity organization, the Sunny Hill Foundation, which has built kindergartens for underprivileged children among other charitable endeavors, and the recent acquisition of her music catalog, Dua Lipa has succeeded massively in all her ventures.  You would have to be a radical optimist to attempt any of these, yet Dua seems to effortlessly do it all. Dare we say, she’s the Elon Musk of Pop?

While Elon Musk may have her beat on building rockets and implanting brain chips, boring tunnels, sending thousands of satellites to space, running X (former Twitter), building AGI (Artificial General Intelligence), solving autonomous driving, and making electric cars, Dua is arguably doing more things. While writing this review, for a moment we forgot she actually also does music and sells out stadiums and arenas globally on her tours! Last year we wrote about how Dua Lipa is building a billion-dollar empire, and all signs point to that happening sooner rather than later.  She'd become one of the very few to accomplish that goal, all while seemingly always being on vacation. Dua Lipa could teach us all a lesson in time management. At the rate she’s going, we wouldn’t be surprised if she made it to Mars before Elon.

Back to the music. For Radical Optimism, Dua says she wrote close to 100 songs, yet only 11 made it on the album. This is her first album in 4 years (has it really been so long since COVID-19 started?).  While Taylor Swift and Beyonce gave us albums almost 30 songs long, we expected Dua to have more to say than 36 minutes and 35 seconds of runtime, especially given the gap between albums.

Her songs reveal a confident, content, and sophisticated Dua Lipa.  Kevin Parker of Tame Impala offers immaculate production, and the vocals – though a bit over-rehearsed and sometimes feeling compressed – are close to perfect. Lyrics like those in "These Walls" feel honest and chilling.  It's mostly a feel-good listen throughout, what’s there not to feel good about? Gone are the raw and emotive vocals, emotional outpourings of her Debut Album, and in are smooth melodies, lines, and vocals that have been perfected note by note.  Dua makes no effort to write about anything other than where she is in her own life, which is in and out of romances, constantly being courted, and building her media empire. It's a well-executed album for what it is. We do, however, miss the raw anthems like "New Rules", "Physical", "Levitating", and "Cold Heart". "Training Season" comes the closest to those vibes.

Speaking of which, Dua missed the opportunity to feature some great artists on the album. After all, her collaborations with Elton John, DaBaby, and Miley Cyrus gave us some of her greatest songs. A Troye Sivan feature on "Anything For Love" would have been welcomed. Perhaps we can get this for the remix?

We need this context to properly review Radical Optimism for what it is and not for what it's not. The title, Radical Optimism, suggests something the album doesn't deliver – a radical sound – nor is it a Future Nostalgia 2.0. Instead, it shows where Dua is now and how she got here: raw talent and radical optimism.  She's perfecting her musicality and bringing us into a world where things are pretty great. The production is velvety smooth, the vocals a little too perfect, and the lyrics precise. If Radical Optimism marks Dua Lipa perfecting her craft, we can expect a lot more music from her in the near future.

Our favorite tracks are:

  1. "These Walls"
  2. "Training Season"
  3. "Anything For Love"
  4. "Maria"
  5. "Houdini"

For those nostalgic for the Dua Lipa of her debut album, "Maria" is the closest you will get. Her low register delivers the same feeling now that she delivered on "Hotter Than Hell", reminding us why we fell in love with Dua Lipa in the first place.

If you accept the premise of Radical Optimism, you’ll enjoy it on repeat. Instead of seeking a radical change in sound, focus on the album's themes of confidence, gratitude towards past loves, and remaining hopeful for future relationships.  Through this lens, Radical Optimism reveals a heartfelt journey of staying true to oneself as a hopeless romantic, despite life's ups and downs. We welcome Dua’s confident new era and give Radical Optimism an 8.5/10.

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