Interview | Dua Lipa talks dark pop, gay fans, and her 'secret weapon'
Chances are that if you even if you haven't already heard of 20-year-old rising pop star Dua Lipa, it's a name you own't be forgetting in the coming weeks. After making waves around the world with her debut single 'Be the One' as the curtain closed on last year, the BBC Sound of 2016 nominee looks set to make her biggest breakthrough in the UK yet with the release of rousing slice of electro-pop 'Hotter than Hell' this week.
After performing at Heaven last month, Attitude’s Georgios Hadjimichael caught up with the young Londoner between meetings with her accountant and a session in the studio (Yep, things are certainly to be all-systems-go for the promising young star-to-be), to talk darkness in pop, becoming accustomed to her own brand uncontrollable word vomit, and why she'll always trust her gay friend's opinion when it comes to, well, everything...
Hi Dua! How’s it all going?
It’s going really well! It’s like, finally, I’m getting the chance to put the music out, and people are getting to hear it so… yeah!
Okay so, for anyone who doesn’t know yet, who is Dua Lipa?
Dua Lipa is 20-years-old, she’s a singer-songwriter from London - but originally from Kosovo. Well, her parents are from Kosovo. And I am speaking about myself in the third person… What the fuck?! [laughs] So, yeah, that’s like, the quickest summary.
You’ve described your sound as ‘dark pop’. Why 'dark'?
I am heavily influenced by hip-hop, and I like to have that flow and the truthfulness and rawness behind the lyrics. You know, not really wanting to sugarcoat the truth. You know you feel like “Oh, this is such a dancey song and it’s so much fun!” but then you actually look at the lyrics and you’re like ‘hold on…’ It’s actually quite different to what people expect sometimes. So I guess it is finding the darkness in pop. You still have the big pop chorus, but then, the lyrics… It comes a lot from everyday life, and everything that, you know, the things that I go through every day. And the things that my friends go through
You've expressed how important it is for you to write your own songs, and most of the songs on the upcoming album were penned by you. Your single ‘Be The One’ is obviously amazing, but do you feel a different kind of connection with songs that you have written from your experiences?
I mean it’s the kind of thing that every time I hear the songs, especially now that I get to perform them. When I perform a song, it instantly takes me back to where I was when I wrote it, and how I felt in that moment. So I will always have a different connection [to them] than I do to ‘Be The One’. But it has completely become my song. Even when I heard it for the first time - I know where I was, and I know how I felt, and why I wanted to do it. You know? I still have that feeling.
When you are writing, do you think 'Okay, this one is for radio, this one is for the live performances'?
I used to do it in the beginning, when I had a song and I’d be like ‘Oh, this could be really good for radio, I want everything to sound like that’. But then I started to limit myself, and stress myself out. Thinking that everything had to be a hit. And when you start thinking like that, your creativity starts to kinda go down the drain. And the pressure gets pretty… You know, there’s a lot of pressure that comes with it. And then the second that I kind of just let loose and I said I just wanna write about things that make me feel… You know, what I felt like writing at the time. And that’s when I started getting the good songs.
In an interview back in December, you said you were pretty new to the live music side of things. I saw you at Heaven and you were incredible! Are you feeling more comfortable on stage?
I feel I’ve definitely grown a lot from the very first time I got on stage. You know, ‘cause you kind of don’t know what to do when there’s so many people just staring at you... But now I’m so much more comfortable. But what was crazy was I thought I’d like, done really well in my stage chat. But then when I got on stage at Heaven… I felt like a child again! I’ve never been so excited. But I felt like I was just having like word vomit. Like 'WHOA I really don’t know what I’m talking about now!' So yeah, it’s still all a massive learning curve. And hopefully each day gets better. I feel like it’s a massive step up from where I was. Also seeing that [before] I was performing in tiny little living-room-size spaces.
Do you still do that?
I am doing a lot more [shows] in Europe now, and like, London. It has gone from 100 people to like… 900 people! [laughs] It’s pretty crazy how it’s all escalated. But I love the intimacy of small shows as well… You really connect.
You said at the end of the show, which I thought was very sweet, that it was the best night of your life.
It was just really surreal. It was the closest I have come to magic. Literally. It was… yeah.
And then you performed at G-A-Y a couple of days later. Is a ‘gay fanbase’ something that’s important to you?
I love it! It’s so much fun. All of my friends are gay. Pretty much. And a lot of my team is as well. And it’s just like… I feel like they give me the most truthful opinion… of everything. And yeah, it’s always fun. The gay bars are fun… Soho’s fun. I guess London’s just got that vibe about it. It is important to me. Just like every other audience. In general, the support has been amazing.
I thought I had done all the appropriate prep by learning the lyrics to the songs that you have released so far, but then you come out with tune after tune nobody had heard yet! Any hints for the next single?
Yeah I sang a few new songs that nobody had heard of! The next single is… 'Hotter Than Hell'. I’m really excited about that. It comes out… very soon. I’m really excited, it was one of those songs… It was the song that got me signed really. You know, it used to just be like a piano and a kickdrum when we first wrote it. There was no production behind it. But it was the song that lyrically people were really interested in. And it’s one that I’ve been keeping really… It’s like my secret weapon!
I always listen to 'Last Dance' when I’m getting ready but it’s proving to be problematic, 'cause I keep repeating it again and again. And then I’m always late. Thanks.
[laughs] I love that. I love that.
I know you must be sick of people asking, but the when are we getting the album?
It should be out at the end of summer. If everything goes to plan.
How we doing for time?
I’ve literally gotta call an uber now to go to the studio… so maybe like… one more?!
No pressure! [laughs]
So some people might have already seen/heard you already and not even realised! You were once on an X Factor advert where you were singing and everyonein the neighbourhood started flocking to peak in your garden. Has art started to imitate life yet?
Do you have any experience of those reality music shows? What’s your opinion on them as a platform for upcoming artists to be heard?
I mean… I think it’s really good because it gives people the chance to get out there if they have no other way, you know? Honestly, if I’m being really honest, I haven’t really watched any of those reality TV shows in a really long time. I think since like, One Direction kind of happened. And that’s probably because then I just started getting kind of too much into kind of [my own music].
I kept getting offered to do them. But I was like ‘let me just try to get a manager myself’. I just wanted to try to kind of get it without them. But I feel like whatever way you can get your voice out there, do it. I am totally up for them. It does give people the opportunity to actually get out there. It is special.
Dua Lipa's new single 'Hotter than Hell' is out now.Words: Georgios HadjimichaelMore stories:American Idol runner-up ‘doesn’t agree’ with LGBT ‘lifestyle’Bryan Adams cancels Mississippi gig in protest at new anti-gay law