Dua Lipa takes on the U.S. (including the President)
In Issue Two of ‘Us of America,' singer Dua Lipa spoke with Peter Robinson about her sold-out US tour, and her journey to pop stardom. Read snippets of their conversation below, and for the full feature, pick up Issue Two, available on newsstands including Barnes & Noble nationwide. You can also buy a copy of our latest issue here.
Let’s rewind a decade. Rihanna was becoming an icon, Katy Perry was gearing up to release her first album, Lady Gaga recorded “Just Dance," Nicki Minaj was putting out her first mixtapes, and Ke$ha was around the corner. We didn’t realize how good we had it: it felt as if the colossal, seemingly superhuman pop megastars would never stop coming. But they did stop. Over the last five years we’ve been crying out for the next generation of strong female pop icons, and Dua Lipa, the UK-based, Kosovo-raised, globally-minded ‘dark pop’ practitioner is already inching ahead.
Early coverage may have dwelled on Dua’s pop pedigree: she is managed by the team behind Lana Del Rey, she dabbled in modelling, and in her teens she was cast in an advert for The X Factor. However, her steady drip-feed of fresh, super-smart modern pop, combined with a strong visual aesthetic, ensured that Dua would soon be regarded as an artist in her own right. And those songs are what truly set her apart: the radio-friendly, attitude-laden “Blow Your Mind (Mwah)," the high-octane bombast of “Hotter Than Hell” (which sounds like The Fame Monster’s missing ninth track), the pensive majesty of “Be The One," which is the type of song whose magic many artists spend an entire career trying to capture.
Dua’s debut album was originally slated for release last year. Rescheduled to this past February, it was pushed back yet again, but for the very best reason: Dua needed to get it just right. It now includes collaborations with Miguel and Coldplay’s Chris Martin, which hadn’t even been recorded in February, and were the result of a fruitful trip to LA. “When I sat down on the plane on the way back from that trip, I knew I’d found the last pieces of the puzzle,” Dua says today. “It was something I'd never felt before: a feeling of clarity.”
Her debut album may be finished, but Dua Lipa is just beginning.
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PETER ROBINSON: So I was looking through some of your merch the other day, and you've got ‘Dua for President’ stickers on sale. I’m wondering if, due to a paperwork error, you indeed became President of the USA, what you’d do differently from Donald Trump?
DUA LIPA: In terms of what I'd do to Donald Trump, I'd get rid of him, and I'd delete his Twitter account. But, God, I mean, he's doing everything wrong, I think. If I was President, I'd address so many issues that he doesn't, and everything that was taken off the White House website. The LGBTQ community, global warming, all these things I guess he's denying should have a lot more light shed on them. I mean, there’s so much fucked up shit in this world. If I could, I'd put a stop to it all.
PR: Your first US tour was with Troye Sivan, right?
DL: That's right! I'd never heard so many screaming girls before in my life. There was so much noise and so much craziness. It was amazing, but overwhelming at the same time.
PR: Is it true that you and he celebrated the end of that tour by visiting a strip club?
DL: Yes, that is true. (Laughs) Well… We finished our show in Atlanta, which was amazing and lots of fun. And we all hung out backstage for a bit, then we said, "Why don't we go out for dinner together?" So we all booked a nice table in a restaurant and had a civilized meal.
PR: And then…
DL: Well, yes. And then we decided to do something else. And Atlanta is known for its amazing strip clubs, so we got in the back of an Uber. At this point I decided it would be a good idea to open a bottle of champagne, but I hadn't realised it had been shaken up, so that went everywhere. The driver freaked the fuck out, stopped the car, and made us clean it all up before he'd drive us to the strip club. I was drenched and absolutely stank. Then eventually we arrived at a strip club called Magic City. It was everything I could have possible imagined or hoped for. You walk in, and there are the most beautiful girls. They're so strong, they've got massive bums. I thought it was great.
PR: You used to work on the door of a club in London. Does this mean you have special knowledge of how to get into a club when you're covered in champagne and clearly off your face? Can you see yourself through the eyes of someone on the door?
DL: Well, I cleaned myself up and made sure the mascara that was running down my face was no longer running down my face. You just have to straighten up—and walk through the door totally confident, as if you know 100% you're definitely going to get in. And then you'll get in! Just walk in with confidence.
PR: Walking in with confidence is kind of how to be a popstar, too, isn't it? There's no room to be timid.
DL: Yes! I think you're right. You have to hit people over the head with it.
PR: Two of your recent hits songs—one with Sean Paul, the other with Martin Garrix—saw you as a featured artist. I've seen you talk in the past about how you're wary of featuring on songs because it's easy for artists to lose their identity. How do you keep your identity?
DL: I got asked to do quite a few features early on, and I turned down all of them, because I wanted to get my own music out first so that people had a clear idea of what I was bringing to the table as an artist. It's scary territory, because sometimes the songs don't relate to who you are as an artist or a person, and people just do them for the sake of having a hit. I don't believe in that—I'd only do it if it was a song I loved, or a song I wish I'd written. So I held out until people knew me and knew my voice. I love the fact that when Martin Garrix gave the song an early play during a set in Dubai, people instantly started Tweeting me, going, “Oh my God, is this you?" I liked that people knew who I was.
PR: That shows you've done everything in the right order.
DL: That meant a lot to me. It meant people still knew me as an artist in my own right, rather than thinking, "Oh, Dua only broke because she was on someone else's song."
PR: How religious are you?
DL: Hm… Well, I believe in faith, and I believe in love, and I believe that if you do the right thing then good things will happen. I don't necessarily believe there's a man in the sky, but I definitely feel like there's magic, and that there's a higher power in some sense.
PR: So it's a spiritual approach rather than 'proper religion'?
DL: Yeah—it's more spiritual than religious.
PR: I only ask because your album has a lot of religious imagery. It begins with a song called 'Genesis,' which begins with a line about God creating Heaven and Earth. Later on there's a song called 'Garden,' which is about the Garden of Eden…
DL: There are lots of biblical references, yeah… I'm really interested in theology, and I find it spiritual and creative, and it's interesting in terms of storytelling. I think it's a really beautiful thing to describe a situation as heavenly, for instance, or something that's bad as being like hell. But it's more a reference to modern-day life. I think there's something really fun about describing it in biblical and spiritual terms. But I believe a lot in karma and what-goes-around-comes-around. I believe in love and kindness, and that's the most important thing.
PR: Bearing that in mind, what have you done in your career that you're not very proud of in order to get ahead?
DL: I don't know about not being proud of it, but I've just been better! (Laughs) I don't know! I just try to be the best version of myself, and be better than the person I was yesterday. That's my only competition.
For more from Dua Lipa, including where to get the best meatballs in New York, pick up Issue Two of ‘Us of America’, available at Barnes & Noble, on quality newsstands, and on our website.