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Dua Lipa Struggles to Make a Splash with Radical Optimism, But is it Really Her Fault?

Dua Lipa Struggles to Make a Splash with Radical Optimism, But is it Really Her Fault?

Dua Lipa’s third studio album, released on Friday, May 3, was the eagerly anticipated follow-up to 2020’s Future Nostalgia, a record that propelled Dua into the A-tier of modern pop and spawned massive hit single after massive hit single. The success of that record, on top of “Dance The Night Away,” Dua Lipa’s single for the 2023 Barbie film, set a high standard of success for her newest full-length.

Upon release, however, Radical Optimism has yet to hit the same universal appeal as Future Nostalgia. Review aggregation site Metacritic currently has Radical Optimism scored as a 72/100 based on 17 critic reviews. In contrast, Dua Lipa’s last album, Future Nostalgia has a score of 88/100 based on 19 critic reviews. A similar trend follows with AnyDecentMusic.com, another review aggregation site that has Radical Optimism as a 6.5/10 versus Future Nostalgia’s 8.5/10.

This has been mirrored in general online discussions of the record.

On the other hand, there are a lot of fans who have been coming to the defense of the album.

Websites like RateYourMusic.com have also seen this mixture of opinions, with users averaging a 3.03/5 for Radical Optimism. Many of the negative comments about Radical Optimism seem to be driven by the disappointment of not living up to Future Nostalgia, while those who appreciate the record claim its differences make it stand out, or that it’s good regardless of what came before it. The truth is that no matter what way you slice it, Future Nostalgia’s shadow looms large over this record as a whole.

In terms of general music discussion, however, Radical Optimism has been overshadowed at every turn, primarily due to bad timing. Dua Lipa is surrounded on all sides by some of what have been the biggest moments in popular music in 2024. Two weeks earlier, Taylor Swift put the music world on hold with The Tortured Poet’s Department. Just as the discussion of Swift was beginning to die down, the music world was once again turned on its head, this time by two of modern hip-hop’s biggest names, Drake and Kendrick Lamar, trading diss tracks back and forth. This culminated on May 3, with Kendrick dropping “6:16 in LA,” Drake responding with “Family Matters” and Kendrick firing back almost instantly with “Not Like Us,” all on the release date of Dua Lipa’s Radical Optimism. According to archive.twitter.com, Dua’s new LP only peaked at #4 on X‘s trending page in the United States.

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Still, Dua Lipa continues to do heavy promotion for Radical Optimism, including a surprise performance in Times Square and guest hosting and performing on Saturday Night Live.

Dua Lipa has yet to announce a tour in support of the LP, or any additional music videos besides the three pre-release singles “Houdini,” “Training Season” and “Illusion.”

While fans may debate the quality of the record, what’s undeniable is that Radical Optimism has had a lot working against it, both in terms of Dua Lipa’s discography and in a crowded spring of pop music. As the album is set to debut on the charts, seeing what kind of longevity the record has towards the end of the year and beyond will be a better gauge for whether Radical Optimism is a flop or not.

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