Friday, November 8th, 2019

Dua Lipa – Don’t Start Now

Rejected Daphne du Maurier titles/approved Dua Lipa singles…


Thomas Inskeep: A full-on disco fantasia done contemporarily: quite fitting for a song that gets its “I Will Survive” post-breakup bona fides easily and naturally. Dua Lipa was clearly paying attention when she worked with Silk City last year, and it serves her more than well here.

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: In theory, this should be a lay-up for Dua Lipa — take the subject matter of your breakthrough hits (breakup kiss-offs) and the aesthetic of your cred-building follow-up collabs (dance music pastiche 1978-1992), collage them together with the help of trusted studio hands (Emily Warren and Ian Kirkpatrick), create hit. And “Don’t Start Now” works, obviously — it’d be a disaster if it didn’t. But despite its charms, which are mostly crammed into a gorgeous chorus (that cowbell!! those strings!! the way she says “walk away”!!), the whole work feels hollow. It’s maybe that the track has too little of its star — Dua’s charming when she can get a word in, but she’s overpowered by a very 2017 vocal chop and an arrangement that’s slightly too fussy. “Don’t Start Now” falters at the edge of distinction, too well-constructed to be great.

Kylo Nocom: Calvin Harris and Charlie Puth should not be aspirational models of funkiness. The former softens the verses; the latter kills the chorus. Dua’s vocal anonymity is strenuous when placed over production so determined to have swagger. The last minute saves this, but barely.

Jackie Powell: Dua Lipa’s diction and pacing sells this single. There’s a pause in between “did the heartbreak change me” and “maybe” that accurately depicts how painful it is to navigate any falling out. This track is the bitterness that is subsequent to betrayal. She’s reassuring herself of her decision while reflecting and also imposing conditions — or, rather, rules. Sounds familiar, right? While the team behind “New Rules” are back for a sequel, “Don’t Start Now” is what Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight was to the initial Batman Begins. Like Christian Bale, Lipa has gotten comfortable and shines because of it. Her influences in this new era are namely a No Doubt-style bassline, and a Prince rhythm guitar loop in verse two. Like Lipa, they operate in isolation. In 2019, she doesn’t need the protection of her posse in the “New Rules” visual. While the robotic sleepover choreography has become iconic, she tells her audience that this time she has more of a command of her narrative as well as her vocal. Dua Lipa was never innocent, but she wasn’t always as natural in administering her panache as an individual. During her live debut of this at the EMAs, she wore an all-black bodysuit and swirled her hips and arms with majestic grace. She stood out in a sea of yellow backup dancers and didn’t need a pink flamingo to get the job done. She calls her upcoming LP “more mature” and visually, I see it. Her call and response in the last chorus took me on a high. It’s almost if we are screaming at the top of our lungs: “REJECTION SUCKS, REJECTION SUCKS,” but with a disco ball nearby. We’ve both come to terms with a new reality. But will it stick?

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: If “Good as Hell” is the bottle of tequila you drink at your best friend’s house right before dumping your man, “Don’t Start Now” is the gin and tonic you sip in the club afterwards. Dressed so hot and having so much fun, it’s all but certain you’ve won the break-up. “So moved on it’s scary,” indeed. 

Ian Mathers: “So moved on it’s scary” is never convincing, and neither is this song, but I can’t be too mad at anything with a bassline like that and disco strings flitting in the background.

Alfred Soto: Solid neo-disco: the cowbell and bass slaps are stuck in the right places, and the vocal’s sultry enough. But this act of necromancy will satisfy revanchists who recoil from modern dance.

Kayla Beardslee: A lot of hyped-up “event” singles this year have been disappointments. “ME!,” “Small Talk,” “Don’t Call Me Angel,” etc — pop music fans looked forward to these high-profile songs because of the promising names attached to them, but once the actual music was released, hype quickly fell apart. The reason is obvious — embarrassingly so, for the artists and labels who decide to create and promote boring-ass songs — celebrity is not a replacement for quality. In fact, more than anything else, over-hype consistently kills my appreciation for good-not-great or just average singles. Pop stars need to promote to live up to their status, but I don’t love being told that I should worship a song before I’ve even heard it, and being pleasantly surprised is far better to me than being underwhelmed. Dua Lipa — now in the thick of her second album cycle, which carries the threat of both the Best New Artist curse and a sophomore slump — began counting down to this single on Instagram an entire week before its release. With all that said, I hope it’s understandable that the first thing I felt upon listening to “Don’t Start Now” was relief — because it fucking slaps. Holy shit. I don’t know Dua Lipa personally, and I’m not responsible for her career, but I’m still so happy for how perfectly this comeback suits her. The lyrics, as a kiss-off to a discarded ex, let Dua shine at what she does best, i.e. sounding confident, sassy, and effortlessly cool (shoutout to the “New Rules” team of Warren, Ailin, and Kirkpatrick reunited here). Disco works perfectly against the too-cool-for-this-shit impulse of her vocals: I did not anticipate that Dua would be the pop girl to commit to the genre, but I’m here for it, because high-energy dance-pop buoys the song and fills in potential low-key aspects of her performance so much more than a chill “One Kiss” instrumental would have. The production feels dizzyingly fast, yet despite its constant bouncing and pulsing, the track’s adherence to classic pop song structure keeps the listener grounded. For the ending, producer Ian Kirkpatrick pulls out the exact same trick he used on Gomez’s “Look At Her Now,” but who cares about the similarity? That layered, amped-up final chorus is one of the most euphoric things I’ve heard all year. I truly cannot overstate how much joy those last 30 seconds bring me, and, judging by the laughter mixed into the ending, Dua feels it too. After all, you shouldn’t let the glitzy production distract you too much from the woman at its heart. By immersing ourselves in the pop fantasy of “Don’t Start Now,” we’re shown an all-too-short glimpse of its central truth: this is Dua Lipa’s world, and we’re all just living in it.

William John: What’s immediately striking about “Don’t Start Now” is its structural precision. Each new idea is sutured to its antecedent with an expert proficiency. The hopscotching piano chords that arrive at the first pre-chorus trick the listener into thinking the song is going to completely succumb to a furore of disco strings and euphoria (that comes later, it turns out). But then, just in time, breathing room and rattling cowbell arrive to provide sweet relief. It’s designed within an inch of its life to keep the dopamine at an optimum level: plenty, but only shooting its shot when the bullseye comes into focus. Critics of Dua Lipa have cited her blankness and lack of discernible personality as a reason for divestment. (That and her rigidity on stage — recently rectified, to electrifying effect, in Seville.) But there’s something quite enigmatic to me about her alleged vacancy. Her performance here is possessed of an air of majesty, as though she’s acquired a will to take control of her own destiny. I, for one, am ready to genuflect.

Reader average: [6.57] (21 votes)

Vote: 0   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10

4 Responses to “Dua Lipa – Don’t Start Now”

  1. love the writing here especially from all the [10]s

  2. I L-O-V-E every one’s blurb here!!! The Batman analogy!!! The comparison as a “New Rules” 2.0!!! “It fucking slaps”!!! But wow: the subheading really just @‘d me to start reading du Maurier because the Nicolas Roeg adaptation was A1.

  3. I really like this song but am pretty well convinced at this point that Dua is never actually going to get over this lover.

  4. This new version fixes pretty much all of my problems with the original and the “Future Nostalgia” promo single is also great tbh