Tuesday, April 21st, 2020

Dua Lipa – Break My Heart

a/k/a/ “Stay At Home”


Thomas Inskeep: Dua Lipa’s sophomore album Future Nostalgia is a cracker of a pop record; perfectly, consistently upbeat musically even when its words are concerned with bad (or bad-for-her) guys. “Break My Heart” is one of two tracks on the album which interpolate/sample prior pop classics, utilising the guitar riff from INXS’s “Need You Tonight” in a smart way and mixing it into a disco cake batter. The way Lipa sings with, instead of against, the riff, is clever and stands out. This single is nowhere near the candy crush of “Don’t Start Now,” but its smart production gets it over.

Jackie Powell: When I first heard “Break My Heart,” on the eve of Future Nostalgia‘s release, I thought that Lipa had retreated back to the more reserved vocals that we heard on her self-titled debut. While there’s less of a vocal confidence on this cut compared to “Don’t Start Now” and “Physical,” it’s the dynamics that make up for it. On “Break My Heart” — produced by The Monsters & Strangerz and Watt — it’s almost as if the instrumental transitions add a necessary complement and supplement to Lipa’s vocal vulnerability, which is appropriate based on the lyrics. The bouncy introductory bassline and timid hit-hat mirror the emotional drive in Lipa’s lyrics, but then as her vocal confidence and admittance of her emotions creep in, so do the keyed-in chords. By the second verse, there’s a convergence of the bass, a fuller-sounding drum kit, rhythm guitar riffs and a string section that aids the pre-chorus. INXS’ opening riffs in “Need You Tonight” have a constant presence, but this is a sample that deserves a bit more respect than, let’s say, Rodgers and Hammerstein in “7 Rings.” This sample serves as an assist rather than a cop-out. The Monster & Strangerz are absolute pros at finessing a soaring chorus (“The Middle,” “Liar” and “Hate Me”) and this is what grounds the giddiness in “Break My Heart.”

Nina Lea: Like so many great dance pop tracks have done since the beginning of time, “Break My Heart” takes a moment of intense vulnerability and transforms it into something electrifying and superbly groovy. “I hope I’m not the only one who feels it all,” Dua Lipa sings, over a relentless beat suggesting the danger that comes with opening ourselves up. Later, in the pre-chorus, she pleads, “I’m afraid of all the things you could do to me.” After all, who doesn’t recognize the fear of falling in love with someone who might break their heart? But this song knows the answer, as did the dance pop greats that came before: The heartbreak may come, but when the dance floor calls, we must obey.

Tobi Tella: The slow discovery of the beat over the whole first verse, pushing that huge build up only to take it all away with the conversational chorus is a neat trick. It legitimately surprised me the first time I listened, which doesn’t happen often. It’s the polished kind of slick as the rest of her singles; she just can’t miss, huh?

Nortey Dowuona: A slow, loping bass slumbers underneath Dua’s soft, unimposing tenor as the glass drums tap in just hard enough, then get pressed down by the heavy, chunky synths. Then the bass lopes back in with their new drum sets with glittery disco guitar trying to holler at them desperately while trying to tape up their wrinkles. The synths snatch the drums from the bass; the bass responds by smirking and producing another set of glass drums, with the dice guitar flapping its wrinkles around the bass. Dua beckons with a group of strings and hands the bass their own guitar, leaving the disco guitar to shake around with the pissed synths. Dua and the bass go home to order Jamba Juice.

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: Almost every think-piece imaginable about Dua Lipa becoming the Quarantine Queen has already been written, so I’ll keep my thoughts here short and simple: one of the best parts of being forced to indefinitely self-quarantine is getting to hear her sing, “I would have stayed at home/Cuz I was doing better alone,” and then patting myself on the back like I’m taking her advice. (It’s the little victories that get you through each day.) 

Katie Gill: That is a VERY sexy bass. The song itself is also sexy but sexy in a way that we’ve kind of seen before. It’s a pretty good Charlie Puth retread and a catchy as hell Charlie Puth retread but again, still kind of feels like a Charlie Puth retread.

Michael Hong: Compare this with Charlie Puth’s “How Long“: both exude a sort of funk energy that maybe makes you tap your foot, maybe nod your head, but they’re not something you’ll want to dance to. Both drop everything except for the bassline before the chorus in the hopes that it will expand the limits of their chorus. But the difference is that while Charlie Puth exhibits a dorky sort of charm, Dua Lipa lacks the personality to make the track have any stakes. “Break My Heart” plays out with a hardness that makes everything sound insignificant. Like there’s no reason for attachment, like her heart can never really be broken and like it’ll be her ex writing the pathetically desperate breakup tracks while she’s long moved on.

Pedro João Santos: Only nine tracks into Future Nostalgia does Dua forgo a bit of control — a stance she’s had since the debut, now rebuilt as pop hubris and a take-no-prisoners outlook on men and sex (as she should). All it took was (another) disco tour de force with the naïveté of “Me and My Imagination”, romantic sabotage and INXS.

Alfred Soto: Credits don’t lie, fine, but I hear “Another One Bites the Dust” in the syncopation, not INXS. Either way, it’s the least interesting single on a most interesting album. The bridge is a window into a poorly furnished home.

Will Adams: A fitting, if disappointing, third single choice for an album whose disco-pop pastiche starts off strong but peters out by the end. Like “Physical,” the nostalgia here is mostly surface: instead of Olivia Newton-John, “Break My Heart” nicks the “Need You Tonight” riff and infuses it throughout the song. And that’s about it; without the drama of “Physical” or the punchy hooks of “Don’t Start Now,” it remains a blank canvas that Dua Lipa is incapable of coloring.

Alex Clifton: Look, just go listen to the damn song and then come back and try to tell me that it isn’t basically perfect. It speaks for itself.

Juana Giaimo: I never thought I’d say this, but my problem with Dua Lipa is that sometimes her music is too perfect. She follows all the rules exactly to make a pop hit single — and she succeeds! — but I miss a little bit of emotion. “Break My Heart” has a funk base, disco violins and spoken catchy vocals. Of course it works, but I still feel I don’t know anything about Dua Lipa.

Reader average: [6.26] (15 votes)

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2 Responses to “Dua Lipa – Break My Heart”

  1. “I never thought I’d say this, but my problem with Dua Lipa is that sometimes her music is too perfect.”

    It occurred to me this week that Dua makes by-the-numbers “perfect” songs, which is part of why I like them the first 50 times and then they fade into nothing for me. Give me weird! Try too hard! Deploy the “Run Away with Me” sax!

    (I also think there’s something to be said for her work as a model and deep involvement in her visual presentation contributing to the too-perfect-by-half aesthetic.)

  2. Funnily enough, when I think of songs that are just a little TOO perfect for me to enjoy, Run Away with Me comes to mind immediately. I love the rest of Emotion, but that one song just feels a bit like it was written through machine learning.