New Ruler: Dua Lipa Is Conquering Pop

With a critically acclaimed debut album, sold out shows around the world, two Brit Awards, and a chart-topping hit under her belt, Dua Lipa has already established herself as a global phenomenon and shows no signs of slowing down soon.
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On pop’s proverbial race track, Dua Lipa is lapping the competition. And if her earlier singles were the fuel,  “New Rules” was her nitrous boost. The radio phenomenon that went “a bit mental” launched her into the  public eye with a musical cease and desist letter to cloying exes everywhere, underwritten by girl power and sealed with a kiss (mwah). It was the Billboard Hot 100 eruption she needed to finally break America—a feat the British singer had been trying to accomplish since the beginning of her professional career in  2015 with catchy songs like “Be the One” and “Hotter Than Hell.” With anticipation for her sophomore album at a fever pitch, Dua Lipa is shifting into high gear. There is no one working harder or moving faster than this tireless 22-year-old.

Polishing off the final leg of Bruno Mars’ 24k Magic tour in Australia as  the opening act, Lipa played to 14,000 rapturous fans—the same ones who usually skip out on openers to grab a pint or a hot dog. They not only stuck around, they also sang, bawled, and screeched the lyrics back to her. “That never happens,” she emphasizes in her low register over the phone from Melbourne. “I feel really spoiled.” 

It makes sense: Several of her tracks vaulted over borders in Europe long before she landed in the U.S. with “New Rules.” She has traveled to and played in as many markets as that single blew up in—a fact she is proud of. It’s the kind of strategy Justin Bieber employed in his “Baby” days: making pit stops at as many local radio stations and small town stoops as it took to bend ears in his direction. However, when I suggest that Lipa has applied these tactics to similarly astounding effect, she retorts, “No way! I don’t think I had any idea what I was doing. All I thought was, The more I put out, every other song will get a bit more momentum because 10 people listen to that first song, maybe 20 people will listen to the next one. Maybe they’ll tell their friends…”

They did tell their friends, resulting in a song you could just as easily hear blasting over speakers in Bahrain as you could pumping out of car windows on the BQE. In the music industry, it’s rare for a name as foreign as Dua Lipa’s to go from pop parvenu to international sensation in a matter of months. She is the embodiment of overnight celebrity — and with all of the new fans and chart success came the succubi, the gossip columnists, and the trolls. “You never expect a song to do [what ‘New Rules’ did] and you’re never really prepared for it,” she says. “Everybody’s so lovely and supportive, but you’re also very open to judgment. That’s one of the sacrifices that you put up with doing this as a job. You get lots of people saying not so nice things. I don’t know if it was just this whole shift in the song doing well — all of a sudden you have a lot more eyeballs on you and then people just don’t like you for the sake of not liking you.” 

On Instagram in March, for example, Lipa simply wanted to send birthday wishes to her father, whom she calls “Babi.” It became an unfortunate lesson in being unfailingly open when the gaze of the public eye is fixed so fiercely upon you. “Babi,” an endearing Albanian term for dad, also translates to “pig” in Malay. Malaysians latched onto that definition and left “aggressive” comments on her post. “It was actually quite mean on their behalf, because obviously I’m not talking in Malay,” she explains. “I speak another language as well, and the language that I speak with my parents is my heritage. I would like that to be respected.”

Lipa was also put through the wringer with what she calls an “awful breakup” with ex-boyfriend of five months, musician Paul Klein of LANY— kindling for her next hit single, sure, but gossip rags were on standby, a box of matches at the ready. “The media made it seem as if I was the one that was breaking up [with him], which is completely untrue!” she exclaims. “It had a lot of repercussions, because I was the one getting lots of hate and he was the one being sent all the love. One day, people are really standing up for empowering women and the next, it’s about dragging them down.”

“It’s important to remember that not everyone feels the way that some trolls feel,” she continues. “I think people are [generally] very empowering online, and that’s the message I want to put out. It’s upsetting—because I’m also human—when people do say mean things online or they assume they really know something about your personal life,” she says, hastening to add, “which they don’t.” Instead of firing back, Lipa is putting on the blinders and channeling her efforts into her follow-up record. Working with fellow Brit singer MNEK—with whom she cowrote the hit “IDGAF”—as well as songwriters Grades, Coffee, Sarah Hudson, and Koz in Jamaica recently, Lipa  says she has never written more songs more quickly. The new album, as best she can describe it, will have “throwback vibes.”

“Dua is so much fun to work with,” discloses MNEK. “She’s a great writer, really open, full of ideas, song titles, and concepts. Jamaica was rainier than we all anticipated, but we had a lot of laughs and it was very productive. It’s definitely a new vibe for her, but it’s early stages—all subject to change.” Though she has hardly any time to glance in the rearview mirror in between touring, jetting to Jamaica, and possibly catching a wink with her makeup still on, she’s surprisingly not worried about burning out. “During the day, I’m like, God I’m so exhausted today. Then I go on stage, and I’m like, That show was so amazing! And I just jump back onto cloud nine. All the adrenaline hits and I’m seeing the finish line for this album and I’m already working on the next.” With that goal in her sights, Dua Lipa, the indefatigable pop star, is putting the pedal to the metal.

Photography Renell Medrano

Styling Lorenzo Posocco

Makeup Francesca Brazzo

Hair Sami Knight

Stylist Assistant Merritt Rea

Location and equipment Pier 59 Studios



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