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There is no denying my love for Future Nostalgia. I remember my reactions being close to mesmerizingly positive as my love for disco-nostalgia was a spearheading bias that modestly lingered—I’m fair enough to share when biases arise, it’s usually focused on approval or disappointments as sometimes we get clouded by our desire to see our faves make music that will contain replay value for ages. Unfortunately, Dua Lipa took a major step back and the disappointment came ten-fold, especially with the producers attached to it. Her name album, Radical Optimism, is unlike previous records, as it focuses heavily on the parameter of the title’s emotional and tonal thesis. Dua Lipa is being more positive, despite knowing that it’s coming at the expense of looking past some of the downward beats that can come about in life with optimism, but even with that as an angle, Dua Lipa isn’t making it that much interested with the content or her choruses, especially in the singles. “Houdini” and “Training Season” were such snoozes, that I was surprised to get some replay value with other tracks. Radical Optimism isn’t bad, but it’s a half-cooked-up pop album that is rarely trying.

Dua Lipa’s Radical Optimism is disappointing primarily because it doesn’t use the production well. Much of it comes from Kevin Parker, Danny L Harle, and Caroline Ailin, one of her co-writers, you’d wonder if the wheels would start churning, but they rarely do. We get glimpses via bops like “Illusion” and “Happy For You,” but these are only part of a microcosm of positives emanating from the album. Dua Lipa isn’t being disingenuous with her music, it has a concise consistency with its sounds with chaos that isn’t all that chaotic, so it warms the listener and offers some leeway into understanding the advice of “look on the bright side,” despite too much optimism could be delusional for the person. It’s an interesting conceit that allows for an album filled with positive bops, but it’s mostly filled with derivative pop songs that lack an earwormy chorus to tie together. Dua Lipa and her usual co-writer, Caroline Ailin, have given some fantastic hits, like “New Rules” and “Dance the Night” from Barbie—on here, her work doesn’t match the virtuosity until the non-singles hit that you get something more relatively catchy and fun like the former two.

Though catchiness shouldn’t be a make-or-break, and it does have some moments—honestly, it’s been a strength of Dua Lipa’s to have something with motion that’s memorable like “Break My Heart” or “New Rules;” here, there are some tinges but the writing doesn’t have the same charm or lavish melodies, even though we see Dua Lipa branching out as a writer. She isn’t fully delivering pop bangers like the magnetic scintillating “Levitating” or the sizzling tropical “Hotter Than Hell.” She’s introspective with the tracks, focusing on love and maturity, but they trail a level of simplicity that doesn’t help the line reel for you to get what is coming across. For fans, much of the more danceable will land for them, and deservedly so as they hit the checkmarks fluidly; unfortunately, outside of “End of An Era” and “French Exit,” not much to reflect in between these types of pieces and hits. “Houdini” is corny; Dua Lipa dips back into her back of been there done that bag of melodies and the lack of creativity isn’t just there, with “Falling Forever” feeling like every typical sad EDM flavor-of-the-month-esque groove. The drums are heavy like they add whafs in influences of drum-n-bass without adding to the production.

Mostly, the production has consistency in its quality, with many standing out despite Dua Lipa being less so. It may sound like I’m harping heavily on Dua Lipa, but the writing and melodies don’t have that same zeal as her Future Nosltagia. However, I commend the new direction, and there are songs to back a potential incline to do more, but the balance isn’t there. It makes some of the production feel wasted as Dua Lipa isn’t giving it her all. The bops aren’t as hooking and come across as boring, like “Training Session,” where its chorus isn’t as colorful and the verses tread a familiar line without elevating themselves with gusto—similar to “Whatcha Doing” and “Maria,” there are a lot of interesting choices from its parts but never the full sum. “Maria” has these elegant strings that share its time with a fleeting but colorful flute (needed more of this); however, Dua Lipa’s performance becomes another forgetful moment as she doesn’t match well with some of the psychedelic funk notes, especially when the synths aren’t as potent as before. Dua Lipa has never been known as a prolific songwriter in this regard—blending tonal downbeat introspective lyrics with more upbeat production.

It makes you appreciate a track like “French Exit” more because Dua Lipa shines on both ends. The production is expansive but focused, and Dua Lipa isn’t trying to sizzle when it pours, keeping the emotion intact, instead of trying to oversell. The production isn’t all perfect, despite my flaunting of it too as it does tread some familiarity without having much to lean on like “Falling Forever” and the lack of nuance in its 00s club-pop influence, or “Anything For You,” which does a poor bait and switch, shifting from an acoustic set into a quick disco-like outro. Fortunately, it’s more consistent than not, and unfortunately, Dua Lipa isn’t coming in packing a full punch like one may have expected. It’s okay to feel similarly, especially when standards get set for artists. With an elongated break between albums, it’s more shocking that it didn’t come with the same virtue and profound cleanliness of previous albums that delivered the bops. I’m a fan, and as such it’s a disappointment; fortunately, I’ll still have some tracks to return to, and I hope you will too. Check out Radical Optimism; maybe you’ll like it more than me.

Rating: 5 out of 10.