Music Spotlight : Dua Lipa

Born and raised in London to Kosovar-Albanian parents, Lipa attended the Sylvia Young Theater School (Rita Ora, Amy Winehouse) until the age of 13, when she relocated to Kosovo with her family. However, the move wouldn’t last very long, and she was back in London by age 15, living on her own and pursuing a singing career.

Lipa was born on 22 August 1995 in London to Kosovar Albanian parents who had moved from Pristina, FR Yugoslavia in 1992. Her father—Dukagjin Lipa—is a marketing manager and the lead vocalist in the Kosovan rock band Oda, while her mother—Anesa Lipa (née Rexha)—works in tourism. Her grandfather Seit Lipa was the head of the Kosovo Institute of History. Lipa has a younger sister Rina and a younger brother Gjin. She attended Sylvia Young Theatre School part-time before moving to Kosovo with her family in 2006 when her father accepted a job offer there. In Kosovo, Lipa attended the Mileniumi i Tretë (Third Millennium) school in Pristina, and became a fan of hip hop artists which would eventually influence her music style.

At the age of 14, Lipa began posting YouTube covers of her favourite songs by artists such as Pink and Nelly Furtado. She has stated that she was influenced by the discovery of Justin Bieber on YouTube which inspired her to take the same route. One year later, she moved back to London with aspirations of becoming a singer, living with a friend and studying at Parliament Hill School during the week and at the Sylvia Young Theatre School on Saturdays. In order to earn money for music sessions, Lipa worked different jobs, such as hostessing restaurants and nightclubs. She began working as a model for the online catalogue ASOS Marketplace when she was 16, with the goal of meeting people who could help her pursue a music career, but she left modelling after a manager told her to lose weight.

Her first demos were released in 2012, attracting the attention of Lana Del Rey’s management team, who signed her and linked her up with Emile Haynie (Lana Del Rey, Bruno Mars). Lipa’s shimmery debut single, “New Love,” was followed by the soulful “Be the One.” Long-listed for the prestigious BBC’s Sound of 2016, she released “Hotter Than Hell” and “Blow Your Mind (Mwah)” in 2016, coinciding with a tour throughout the spring and summer. While “Hotter Than Hell” went on to break into the Top 20 in the U.K., in 2017 Lipa earned the distinction of having three simultaneously charting singles in the U.K. Top 15 with “Be the One,” “Scared to Be Lonely” with Martin Garrix, and “No Lie” with Sean Paul.

Her debut full-length, arrived summer of 2017. In addition to her previously released singles, the album included “Lost in Your Light” (a duet with Miguel) and “Homesick” (with Coldplay’s Chris Martin). Since a handful of singles had already been in international rotation since 2015, the album’s revived international promotional effort focused on the single “New Rules,” which became another multi-platinum hit, not only rising into the Top Ten on the Billboard Hot 100 but also landing on European and Australian Top Ten lists. Eighth album single “IDGAF” followed in 2018, extending her chart presence. That summer, she teamed with Calvin Harris for the ’90s club-inspired “One Kiss,” which helped land Lipa another number one. Lipa provided the vocals and is also credited as a writer. The single went on to become the biggest selling song in the UK of 2018 and topped the chart for eight consecutive weeks. Closing out the whirlwind success of this breakthrough era, she collected all these collaborative singles and bundled them with the deluxe version of her debut album as Dua Lipa: Complete Edition, which was promoted with the single “Kiss and Make Up” with K-pop girl group BlackPink.

In January 2018, Lipa received nominations in five categories at the Brit Awards, more nominations than any other artist that year. She was nominated for MasterCard British Album of the Year for Dua Lipa, British Single of the Year and British Video of the Year for “New Rules”, British Female Solo Artist, and British Breakthrough Act, winning the latter two. This was the first time that a female artist had received five nominations.

Photo by Bryan Derballa

The singer collaborated with American DJ Whethan on the song “High” for the Fifty Shades Freed soundtrack, released in February 2018. She started working on new material for her second album in March 2018.

Following the release of its lead single “Don’t Start Now”, Lipa’s second album Future Nostalgia and its accompanying tour were announced in December 2019. “Don’t Start Now” peaked at number two on both the UK Singles Chart and the US Billboard Hot 100. It also peaked at number one on the US Billboard Mainstream Top 40 chart. Lipa’s third single leading up to the release of the album, was “Physical”, it debuted at number 60 on the US Billboard Hot 100. Future Nostalgia debuted at number two on the Official UK Albums Chart, 5550 copies behind 5 Seconds of Summer’s CalmFuture Nostalgia peaked at number one on the Official UK Albums Chart the following week in April 2020, while the album’s three singles entered the top ten of the Official Singles Chart.

On 2 October 2020, Lipa released the second remix of “Levitating” featuring American rapper DaBaby alongside the music video on the same day.  Lipa was featured in “Prisoner”, a song from American singer Miley Cyrus’s seventh studio album Plastic Hearts.

Future Nostalgia was the most streamed album by a woman (and fifth most streamed album overall) on Spotify in 2020.

Together with her father Dukagjin, she co-created the Sunny Hill Foundation in 2016 to raise funds to help people with financial difficulties in Kosovo, and in August 2018, she organised a festival to raise money for the Sunny Hill Foundation, called the Sunny Hill Festival.

Lipa identifies as a feminist. She has publicly spoken out against sexism within the music industry, using social media to raise awareness of women’s problems. She participated in a short film for an initiative called “Global Feminism”, directed by The Circle of Annie Lennox in association with Apple Music and released on 7 March 2019 ahead of International Women’s Day. The clip intended to raise awareness of misogyny, rape, and violence against women, and featured Lipa showing the following statistic: “1 in 3 women and girls are impacted by physical or sexual violence in their lifetime”.

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