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Dancing on My Own With Dua Lipa

Dua Lipa
Photography: Nicole Nodland

Meet the British pop star making a case for crying with choreography.

Dua Lipa's sold-out show at NYC's Irving Plaza felt important, like the precious moment before a rising artist breaks in a major, irreversible way. Manhattan's packed space was buzzing, not unlike my time seeing Lady Gaga's Fame Ball Tour in a cramped Minneapolis cafe--something was happening, something special.

I attended the Brit's concert alone--a situation I initially wasn't pleased with, but in hindsight am happy for having experienced. As it turns out, loneliness is the best headspace for listening to Lipa's music, just as long as you're free to move simultaneously. "New York, go fucking crazy with me," the pop star screamed on stage, as I took orders, channeled my inner Robyn and confidently danced on my own, absorbing Lipa's relatable lyrics about falling in and out of love.

With her debut studio album, slated for release this June, 21-year-old Lipa has carved out a sweet spot in music, where raw, honest emotion is matched with power-pop production to create a sound that at once fosters passionate dancing and shameless crying. Rather than run--a natural reaction for most--the brave, rising artist leans head first into her pain, singing about experiences we've all been forced to face, rationalize and eventually move past, though memories never fully dissolve.

On "Hotter Than Hell," Lipa lit a former lover on fire, asking him, "Does it burn when I'm not there?" before erupting into a dark, sexy dance break that ignited our egos at Irving Plaza, as we moved in unison to forget those who've burnt us. With "Thinking 'Bout You," Lipa's smokey vocals triggered the pain of a break-up; "I can't get by, I can't get high, I can't get through," we sang together, finding solace in miserable company. Martin Garrix's "Scared to Be Lonely" opened the emotional floodgates, but with "Be The One," Lipa dried our tears, reminding us through optimistic, earnest lyrics that "we can work this out."

We caught up with Dua Lipa after the show to discuss her highly anticipated breakout LP, touring with OUT100's Troye Sivan and her growing pack of empowered queer fans.

OUT: You've just finalized your debut album's tracklisting. What was that process like?

Dua Lipa: It was kind of tough to be honest. The stories all jump around; it doesn't go in chronological order, so it's more about the sound, kind of like doing a live set, how one song ends and the next song begins, and they go together really well. It's a lot of listening to the ends of songs and beginnings of other ones, and putting them together in that order. But also a bit lyrically, as well--there are some songs I really want to put next to each other based on similarities.

Now that your album is a complete package, what would you say is its central message?

Everything I've written about is very autobiographical, and I want people to be able to relate to it and see that we all go through the same things in one way or another. Looking back at all the songs I've picked, a lot of it revolves around love, which is because that's what's going on in my life at the moment.

What perspective do you think you're bringing to pop music?

I've always just tried to be as much of an honest, open book as possible about my personal experiences--being able to talk about my secrets and write them in a song. I'm still learning to do that, but all my stories are coming from a very honest place. The artists that I love, like Nelly Furtado and Pink, I think they did that really well, where I know a little more about their life through their music.

You've really found the balance of making emotional music you can still dance to...

I keep telling people that dance-crying is a thing (laughs). It's one of my favorite things--the juxtaposition of being able to dance to something, while also crying to it. Dance-crying is a genre (laughs).

What's the story behind your song, "Hotter Than Hell?"

That song came from a toxic relationship with someone that made me feel like I wasn't good enough--someone that made me feel like I wasn't worth it. After the breakup, it was me channeling how I felt, making it feel like I had the upper hand in the relationship and not really showing weakness.

How about "Scared to be Lonely?"

I didn't write that song--Martin [Garrix] had the track and reached out to me and my team, and said, "I love your voice; I'd love to work with you and I have this idea for a song." I absolutely loved the song and thought it was really personal--really honest. It's a very relatable song, but then there's a dance section. You could listen to it on your own, with friends or at the club--it's really universal.

What was the process of creating your new album's sound?

I wanted it to be something you can dance along to, but I wanted there to be darker elements--something that brings darkness into pop music is really important to me. I found my best collaborator, Koz, when I was in Toronto. We did a song together, "Last Dance," and I absolutely loved the production--it had everything I wanted. He did general production on the whole album.

Considering this is your first album, have you experienced any resistance along the way?

I think the only person that was really stopping me from getting the best I could get was myself--just being afraid to really open up and worried what people might think. That's what was really stopping me--realizing that the way to get the best song out of me is just by being honest. That's what I went for and it really worked out.

You recently went on tour with Troye Sivan. How was that experience?

Getting to be on tour and watch someone like Troye entertain--he's such a brilliant performer and a great songwriter. He's got such amazing showmanship and that was really exciting for me to watch someone like that night-after-night... Also having the opportunity to perform for such big crowds--there were so many screaming girls, it was amazing.

Related | Troye Sivan: First YouTube, Now the World

Do you think you'll ever collaborate with Troye?

I would absolutely love to. We haven't got any plans at the moment; I think he just about to start writing his next album, but I would love to write with him.

Who are some of your dream collaborators?

I would love to write with Frank Ocean, I think he's amazing. I'd love to write a song with Sia, The Weeknd or Kendrick Lamar. I haven't done any songwriting for other artists because I've been focused on my album, but there are certainly songs that I'd happily give away to other artists now that I've figured out my own tracklisting.

Why do you think your music resonates so much with a queer audience?

My music is empowering and fun to dance to. A gay audience wants to have fun and they're free to be honest. I love it--they're always up for a party.

Catch Dua Lipa on tour in the following cities:

March 11 Houston, TX House of Blues Bronze Peacock
March 12 Dallas, TX Prophet Bar
March 14 Phoenix, AX Crescent Ballroom
March 15 Los Angeles, CA The Belasco Theatre
March 17 San Francisco, CA Great American Music Hall

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