Track Review: Houdini // Dua Lipa

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In 2020, three days after the UK started its first Covid-19 national lockdown, Dua Lipa dropped Future Nostalgia. At a time of uncertainty and reflection, the album provided a perfect escape from the growing horrors of the pandemic. For many of us, that album, with its blend of twenty-first-century electronica and nostalgic disco beats, would be the soundtrack to those days of isolation. Three years later, Dua Lipa is back to help us escape again with the aptly titled banger ‘Houdini’.

‘Houdini’ is the first track from Dua Lipa’s much anticipated as-yet-untitled third album. On the new single, she sings, “ I come and I go…catch me or I go” but, one thing Dua Lipa has not been is absent. Three years have passed since her sophomore album but, it seems like she has been ever-present. With a successful world tour, a duet with Elton John, and the hit single ‘Dance the Night’ from the Barbie movie, her magic trick is to be everywhere.

As Lipa wiped her social media accounts and returned with a new haircut, the question was whether ‘Houdini’ would reveal the start of a radically different musical era. The good news is that from the opening Daft Punkesque bars of ‘Houdini’ to the thumping disco beats and twinkling dance floor shimmer, the winning formula is still present. And, this is not a trick that Lipa has repeated before. Pulling in Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker and Danny L. Harle on production duties signifies enough of a nuanced directional change to make the sound refreshing. The disco-pop sensibilities are all present and correct but, Lipa teases with a more breathy – almost Miley Cyrus-like – vocal delivery. There is also a more intricate and less brash sound. If Future Nostalgia was nu-disco, ‘Houdini’ introduces more of a smokey late-night club vibe to proceedings.

Lyrically, this feels more confident and sassy as Lipa teases us with a song about irresistible attraction. Yet, just as she provides a glimpse of her new musical style, the singer teases her lover with threats of being ghosted if her expectations are not met: “Catch me or I go Houdini…maybe you could be the one to make me stay.” After an outro of snarling electronic synth beats, the song ends. Lipa is gone as quickly as she arrived and, the vanishing trick is complete. With the bouncing disco beat still dancing in our synapses, the audience is left wanting more.

It feels like Dua Lipa has never been away but with ‘Houdini’ it also feels like she is truly back. And, that feels like magic.

Words by Andrew Butcher


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