We survey the career of the English pop star, from growing up in Albania to becoming a celebrity favourite with two Brits wins
Dua Lipa in Abu Dhabi: See a pop star who is on her way to greatness
Pop music fans in the UAE should savour Dua Lipa’s performance in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
Arriving on the back of her big-selling debut album and a record five-nomination haul at the Brit Awards – which was held last night – the 22-year-old is heading for big things.
With her self-titled album full of anthemic tracks straddling that sweet spot between adventurous music production and earworm hooks, there is a sense of destiny to Lipa’s career, which began to take shape nine years ago in the Balkan country of Kosovo.
Born in London to Albanian parents, Lipa relocated to her parents’ homeland for a four-year stretch as an 11-year-old.
It was in 2010, during the final months of her stay, that Lipa – inspired to sing by her rock musician father – began dropping pop song covers of Nelly Furtado and Pink on her YouTube account.
Upon her return to London, she gigged regularly, built up her social media following and recorded enough songs to gain the interest of Lana Del Ray’s manager, Ben Mawson, who signed her up to the major label Warner Music Group three years ago.
One can understand the interest; like his big-selling client, Lipa also possesses a powerful and off-kilter vocal style that can be finessed, but rarely tamed.
There is a bombastic and uncompromising tone to Lipa’s voice that allows heady tracks like New Rules and Be the One to act as mini life manifestos in addition to being stomping pop numbers.
For the battalion of songwriters enlisted for her debut album, it was akin to sculpting with the finest putty. Released last year and the result of a laborious 18-month writing process, all the tracks in the album have the goal of highlighting Lipa’s vocal prowess.
Whether it’s in the up-beat and clubbier numbers such as Hotter than Hell to the blue-eyed soul of Garden, the album is a fine distillation of Lipa’s burgeoning talent and her peers have taken notice with offers of joint recordings.
“She has been on my dream list of collaborators. I love her voice and energy is super-cool,” said Dutch dance music superstar Martin Garrix about working with Lipa on last year’s hit track Scared to Be Lonely.
Jamaican dance-hall star Sean Paul credited Lipa’s raw talent for last year’s successful collaboration No Lie. “I was just looking for the dopeness and she just got it,” he said in a UK radio interview. “I love her voice and I have been telling everyone about it.”
But talent on the mics and production desk is not enough for a hit; Lipa explains her Midas touch when it comes to collaborations with songwriters and producers has nothing to do with the music itself.
“There are people with whom you feel comfortable from the start, and you feel you can open up.
“You’re entering a room with a stranger, talking about your personal life. If they’re more honest with me, then I’m less afraid to be the same with them,” she told Billboard magazine.
“If I use songs I did not write, they have to be songs that I can relate with, that transmit what I have lived … songs that I would wish I had written myself.”
And when she does partake in the songwriting process, Lipa digs deep.
Hotter Than Hell (with lyrics such as “Can’t let me know I’m wanted / Can’t let me in your head) and the euphoric Blow Your Mind are inspired by the emotional and industry rejection she felt.
Where the former stems from being stuck in an emotionally abusive relationship, the latter dates to an experience as a teenager in London where she was told to lose some weight by a London modelling scout.
“It messed up my body confidence because I was so young,” she told The New York Times in a recent interview.
“Heartbreak makes good stories, so sometimes, as much as heartbreak sucks, it makes for good writing.”
That said, with Saturday’s show part of a final run of dates before work on her second album begins, and so Abu Dhabi fans should expect Lipa to take the stage content and at the peak of her powers.