Popping Up: Dua Lipa

Carl Williott | October 30, 2015 10:00 am

Popping Up is our recurring look at new artists making noise on the music landscape. Because, hey — Beyoncé and Miley were once unknown, too.

Maybe it’s the “left her parents at 15” backstory, or the casual grittiness to her voice, or the Lana-but-happy lo-fi aesthetic of her debut video “New Love,” but London-via-Kosovo singer Dua Lipa gives off an American pop vibe. Which really just illustrates how she’s part of the post-geography internet generation. It’s a generation that thrives on cross-cultural pollination and is increasingly candid about the teen/young adult experience, while still engaging with social media’s “show your best and hide the rest” gauntlet.

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Along with singers like Alessia Cara, Halsey and Clairity, Dua Lipa’s songs are honest, emotional and empowering. These are not the cultivated teengirl fantasies depicted by Britney Spears in the late ’90s or peddled by Justin Bieber during his “Baby” days. These are pop’s anti-“it” girls, and Dua has managed to join that circle with just two songs to her name. “Be The One” is less than a day old, and it’s just as effervescent as her Emile Haynie and Andrew Wyatt-produced debut track, but it’s even bouncier and catchier, signaling she’s no fluke.

A couple weeks before she premiered the new video, which you can watch below, we spoke to Dua Lipa in New York about her globe-trotting past, Nelly Furtado‘s impact and more. Read on to get to know the rising singer.

HOMETOWN: London. “I was born and raised in London. My parents are from Kosovo. I went to school in London until, I dunno what age, but I moved to Kosovo for a bit, and realized there was nothing really out there for me,” she explains. “So when I turned 15, I just kind of decided I was gonna move back to London… And for some weird reason my parents let me do it. But my mom was like, the second I woke up I had to call her, the second I left the house I had to call, the second I got to school, the second I got home. They were really worried about me. And now my sister wants to do the same thing. She’s 14 and my mom’s like ‘There’s no way I’m going thru that stress again.'”

OLD SOUL: “Moving out at an early stage in life, it’s made me a bit more mature,” Dua says. “I guess that’s how it reflects in my music, where I feel like I’ve lived a lot more than I actually have.”

INFLUENCES: A pop chameleon, Dua Lipa can exhibit shades of Rihanna‘s mischievous swagger, Amy Winehouse‘s raw soulfulness and Zola Jesus‘ bewitching darkness. At times there’s a certain free-spirit, earthy feel to her music, and that probably goes back to one of her early favorites.

“As a kid I listened to [my dad] sing his own songs and other people’s songs. Stereophonics, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Sting. I grew up around all that and I loved it so much, but he also let me develop my own taste,” she recalls. “I got given the first Nelly Furtado album, Whoa Nelly!, and I freaked out. That’s like the most amazing thing. I was singing those songs when I was little, ‘Shit On The Radio.’ I still have the CD actually. It’s stuck with me, she’s so fucking cool.”

Hip-hop plays a big role in her current musical vision as well. “I like to put that feel into my music. I like to have more of a flow in the verses and then a pop chorus.”

BETTER THAN THERAPY: “For one song I wrote, I had just gotten out of a really terrible breakup,” she recounts. “And I got to the studio and I just didn’t want to write a sad song. So I wanted to channel it like, ‘Oh he just couldn’t get enough of me.’ And it was a really therapeutic ‘fuck you.'”

NEW LOVE, NEW INK: Those scenes of her getting a tattoo in the “New Love” video? That’s real. “We shot the whole video in L.A. in a day and it was more just for fun. It was like a bunch of things that I was like ‘OK this video’s for free I can literally do whatever the fuck I want, so I’m gonna do all the crazy shit I’ve always wanted to do.'”

WHAT’S NEXT: Dua Lipa’s official live debut is in Paris on November 25, then she has two shows in New York and two in L.A. in January. And she’s eager to literally get this show on the road. “You find out a lot about your songs when you sing live. A lot of it speaks to you.”