One of the few to build a trickle of hype in the instant gratification of modern listening, Dua Lipa has struck gold with the steady road to the latest single Houdini. Swirling rumours neither confirmed nor denied by the Future Nostalgia lead made for a buzz usually clawed at. But Dua Lipa has a sense of presence without being there – as Houdini, her recent release, reveals. Refreshingly clear on where this song leads her and her listeners, the desire for new and quality electronic pop music is tantamount to riotous. The Barbie soundtrack struck gold when enlisting the help of Dua Lipa, whose move to Nu-Disco and doubling down of popular, modern synthpop trends is an exciting one.
A sigh opens Houdini. Bracing herself for another remit of touring, studio recording and lengthy processes of release in between, Dua Lipa returns with a bang. A bold and fresh new sound hits through with the electronic blend of bass and percussion providing a similar sound to Dream Job, the latest Yard Act single. Who would have thought Dua Lipa was a fan of growing lettuces in the potholes in the road? She comes and she goes and with a dominant lyrical variety on Houdini, it is more of the same from Dua Lipa conceptually. A bold and confident expectation is still present – the tone of Future Nostalgia shifted somewhat to give a meaner edge to it all. It is exactly what Dua Lipa needed.
Repetitive mentions of the Hungarian-American illusionist are featured though are filtered by some impressive, heavy electric guitar work toward the end before a sudden shut-off. There is much to be desired from Houdini considering this is, after all, the lead single. It has a rising instrumental presence quite like the best bits of Future Nostalgia. The bar is raised. In setting the standard for electropop and synthpop nostalgia pieces, there is an expectation for a rising improvement. Houdini does not offer this. It presents another staying of the course, a not-quite meandering piece but a song which misses out on utilising its harsher sound and confident instrumentals with stronger lyrics. Dua Lipa still has a hell of a voice, this does not go anywhere, but Houdini is held back by its repetitive fixation on the topic. Weighing up whether to stay or go is always a treat to hear, but Dua Lipa has not quite hit on where this track takes itself.
Darker club antics are present – the harsher thump of the instrumentals is an excellent shift which hopefully gears up this third album. Whether or not stronger lyrics are around the corner is yet to be seen though hope is on the horizon, of course. This is the artist who brought a package of well-intentioned and crystal-clear songs on her second release. Even her self-titled debut has some gems in there. Steady the course after Houdini then, a track which spends more time obsessing over the name of the magician than the meaning behind its inclusion. What could have been a storming new era for Dua Lipa feels a little too closely tied to that of the old one, and with it, a step down in lyrical quality.