No one in their right mind would go so far as to say “New Rules” hurt Dua Lipa’s career.
After all, this was the 22-year-old singer’s first bona fide stateside smash, its success no doubt aided by an eye-catching, pastel-hued video that has racked up over a billion views on YouTube.
But part of what makes the “New Rules” video so fascinating is how stern and detached it is, its almost zen-like state of hostility. One part Bye Bye Birdie remake and the other part feminist murder cult, the clip is a stylish ode to the power of female solidarity in the face of loser men and poor decision-making.
It’s also borderline creepy, its blank faces and softly mechanical choreography suggesting an underbelly of repressed trauma and boiling resentment. Lipa looks chillingly aloof throughout, just as she did in the promotional pics for her self-titled 2017 debut, the face of a pop star too stately in her beauty to find much reason to emote.
When she logically replicated the music video (minus the bathrobes and plus one giant flamingo) last month for her Billboard Music Awards performance, the affectations fell flat. With no close-ups or languid tracking shots to help sell the emotion (or lack thereof), Lipa appeared sleepy, a tad breathless, even a little bored. While today’s current crop of pop divas generally forgo the weaponized choreography of the TRL days, “New Rules” leaned so deep into its aesthetic that we didn’t get much of a chance to see how good Dua Lipa actually is as a performer.
But based on Lipa’s performance at the Armory on Sunday night, there’s little reason to doubt her. In fact, given the powerful vocals, assured level of confidence, and surprisingly natural stage presence she displayed during her 90-minute set, Lipa seems as poised as anyone in the under-25 set to become pop’s next great hope. Yes, the stoic hair brushing of “New Rules” was captivating, but where the hell has this side of Dua been hiding?
There’s a ruthless pop efficiency to Dua’s debut that lends itself naturally to a concert environment, especially one that can’t rely on costume changes or ornate staging to keep the energy up. Save for a couple ballads that showcased Lipa’s deep, dare I say Winehouse-esque contralto, the set list put a hard emphasis on the bops, starting with sassy kiss-off “Blow Your Mind” and a trio of punchy tropical-house-infused numbers, all set to kaleidoscopic, Day-Glo visuals.
From there, Lipa, dressed in sneakers and a spangly, sheer lavender lace two-piece, ran through a full gamut of emotions. She was triumphant and lovestruck on the starlit rollerfunk of “Lost in Your Love,” seductive and undulating on Fifty Shades cut “High,” and mournful and regretful on the sputtering midtempo “Garden.” Before long she was back to the club hits, including the hyperkinetic “Last Dance,” during which the singer and her dancers were deeply entwined in some endearingly goofy Sweatin’ to the Oldies dance moves. On the bold synth-pop of “Be the One,” Lipa led the audience in an infectious sing-along that provided the evening’s clear high point, especially as she urged the audience of adoring fans to “go fucking mental.”
After the charming “Genesis” (a song that best exemplifies Lipa’s flirtation with alternative pop sounds, especially on that Staten Island pronunciation of “heaven on oy-th”), things took a hard pivot back into EDM-territory, including collaborations with Martin Garrix and current Calvin Harris-assisted chart-climber “One Kiss”—clearly what the crowd came for.
While Lipa’s stage banter was frustratingly brief and free of much candor, she did shout out Twin Cities Pride Weekend on multiple occasions. When someone from the audience handed her a rainbow flag, she wore it like a cape for an entire song before draping it prominently over an on-stage staircase for the remainder of the set. And the tender slow burner “No Goodbyes” featured up close and personal choreography with a female dancer that seemed intent on championing same-sex love.
More glimpses of personality like this will do Dua Lipa wonders moving forward, especially as she inevitably narrows down her sound into something more focused than the people-pleasing grab bag of her debut. She scored genuine laughs when an onscreen graphic preceding encore “IDGAF” dedicated the song to “all the fuckboys who have done you wrong.” Considering the vocal prowess and surprising degree of showmanship on display during her Minneapolis visit, all Lipa needs to do to achieve superstardom is show us a glimpse of the woman behind the pastel bathrobe.
Click here to see photos of Dua Lipa at the Armory
The crowd: Mostly teen girls and gays, the latter of whom were somehow still chockfull of energy even after three (four? five?) days of Pride festivities
Overheard in the crowd: Frustratingly, no one making reference to Wendy Williams’ now-infamous pronunciation of “Dua Lipa” on a recent episode of her talk show. We love Dula Peep!
Set l ist
Blow Your Mind (Mwah)
My Love/No Lie
Lost in Your Love
Be the One
Thinking ‘Bout You
Scared to be Lonely
Hotter Than Hell