The magic of Future Nostalgia: How a single album created a superstar
Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia was released in March 2020 (with singles released in late 2019) and yet somehow stayed relevant all the way until her Future Nostalgia ended in November 2022.
That kind of longevity on an album has been rare to see over the last few years, especially when there was a pandemic that prevented major promotion and touring. A lot of artists that released albums in late 2019 or early 2020 essentially gave up; they put the album out there and then almost wrote it off when the world went into lockdown, and began working on something else in their spare time.
But Dua Lipa managed to keep Future Nostalgia alive not only during the pandemic but beyond it, with it now being the 6th most streamed album of all time on Spotify.
So how exactly did Dua Lipa manage to turn Future Nostalgia from an album released at an unfortunate time to an era that turned her into a superstar?
Singles and music videos
Dua Lipa did something that has become less common among major artists, and that is not only releasing promotional singles and music videos before the release of the album but continuing to promote singles and release music videos afterward.
The first single of the era was Don’t Start Now which was released in November 2019, and there were 8 different music videos, ending with the video ‘Love Again’ all the way in June 2021, nearly two years after the album was released. She may have released more music videos than usual because she couldn’t tour and needed to keep the hype alive, but with the commitment she and her team had to the Future Nostalgia era, it wouldn’t surprise me if they had a good amount planned from the get-go.
Two further versions of the album
After the release of the main Future Nostalgia album, Dua Lipa released two further versions of Future Nostalgia: Club Future Nostalgia and Future Nostalgia: The Moonlight Edition. Club Future Nostalgia was an album filled with remixes of each song released with The Blessed Madonna, and The Moonlight Edition essentially acted as a deluxe album.
The album was kept fresh by the release of these other versions, and in particular Club Future Nostalgia allowed the album to reach new audiences as other producers and DJs came to collaborate on each of the tracks.
The Moonlight Edition, released two years after the initial album, added 6 more songs which also included more collaborations including Lipa’s highly successful collaboration with Miley Cyrus ‘Prisoners’. Dua Lipa also released two videos for songs on The Moonlight Edition which is very rare for deluxe tracks.
Each of these versions of the album offered something slightly different that Dua Lipa and her team could capitalise on, and the timing of their releases was perfect to keep the era going at a good and consistent pace.
Online live performances
After the Future Nostalgia tour got postponed due to the pandemic Dua Lipa’s team put together Studio 2054; a series of intricately put-together livestreamed concerts hosted by Dua Lipa. The shows featured performances from her, some of her collaborators, and some special guests including big names like Elton John and Kylie Minogue.
Studio 2054 was a full-blown production: as close as you could get to a real-life concert performance without the audience present. It included costume changes, behind-the-scenes footage for VIPs and acted as a bit of escapism for those watching at home.
It impressed both critics and audience members alike, and it raised the standard for future online concerts.
Future Nostalgia Tour
Finally, in 2022, the Future Nostalgia tour could finally commence and it was as impressive as the other parts of the era.
It was clear Dua Lipa was determined to prove a point after criticisms about lackluster performances in her past because the Future Nostalgia tour was fun and high energy and showcased her ability as a performer. There were 71 shows on the tour, taking place across the US, Europe, South America, Australia & NZ, and a few other shows scattered in between. The tour only ended in November of 2022 which officially closed out the era after almost exactly 3 years since her first single of the album was released.
The tour was lauded by critics who praised it as a fun showcase of Lipa’s popstar abilities.
One of the keys to Future Nostalgia lasting so long was its consistent and relentless aesthetic. It was clear that Lipa had a vision for the concept of the album and she stuck with it all the way through until the tour.
The sound of Future Nostalgia takes clear influence from previous decades of pop music, particularly the 80s, and combines it with more modern and futuristic dance sounds: hence the name Future Nostalgia.
The concept of being retro but also futuristic ran through everything during the three years that the era ran for: the promotional images, the music videos, her fashion aesthetics, her livestreams, and on to the tour.
Although it would be ridiculous to suggest that every album should have such a strong concept, it’s definitely what helped Future Nostalgia to be as successful as it is.
So, what are the key takeaways that other artists need to consider if they want to have an album era that lasts as well as Future Nostalgia has?
Consistent theme and aesthetic.
Dedication. You have to want to make it last, not just hope it does, and you have to be willing to put in the work to do that.