mon 19/04/2021

Dua Lipa's Studio 2054 online - pop sensation locked into the spectacle | reviews, news & interviews

Dua Lipa's Studio 2054 online - pop sensation locked into the spectacle

Dua Lipa's Studio 2054 online - pop sensation locked into the spectacle

Does Dua Lipa's new-found musical personality come through in performance?

As with so much in these unprecedented times, online performance is evolving, and fast: different approaches are becoming established formats. Some go ultra intimate – raw acoustic performances, live chats with fans – as if trying to strip away the digital divide. Big, serious rock bands with like Metallica and Radiohead try to keep their established fanbases sated with sheer volume of professionally recorded archive performance.

As with so much in these unprecedented times, online performance is evolving, and fast: different approaches are becoming established formats. Some go ultra intimate – raw acoustic performances, live chats with fans – as if trying to strip away the digital divide. Big, serious rock bands with like Metallica and Radiohead try to keep their established fanbases sated with sheer volume of professionally recorded archive performance. DJs and electronic acts try and build on the models already provided by pirate radio or Boiler Room type platforms, while the more adventurous try and create virtual raves in already existing online environments like Minecraft. And pop artists are pulling out the stops to maximise razzle dazzle.

Dua Lipa and friendsDua Lipa’s Studio 2054 show is the latest stage in the evolution of the pop stream format. Of course it makes sense, given that she really found her voice and sound this year as a neo-disco singer, to try and use a nightclub setting in her performance. Not that this is new in itself: neon, clubby set dressing is a standard trope, with Prince’s Sign O the Times concert movie (itself a precursor to the stream format, given that it was recorded in a studio) as the high water mark. But Lipa’s team definitely seemed to be keen to pull out all the stops to get a concentrated form of that glitterball magic.

From the off the show was about as choreographed as you can possibly get. Dancers, musicians, lights, moving props, vaseline-lensed camera angles were all locked together with Lipa’s moves and even facial expressions, to make every single shot a perfectly-framed kaleidoscope image. So tight, in fact, was the meshing of sound and movement, and so regimented was the performance, that it was entirely impossible to tell whether you were watching something genuinely live, “as live”, or completely mimed.

The setting was really quite cheesy too. The all-neon-everything made the “club” setting feel like more glorified Eighties Top Of The Pops studio than Sign O the Times – and the dancers running through tunnels of giant hula hoops felt full-on CBBC at times. Yet the relentlessness of it all, and the scale – this “club” had multiple rooms, which Lipa and her dancers sashayed in between – amplified all that to delirious levels of intensity, which actually kind of suited Lipa’s 2020 songs, which themselves pump up classic funtimes disco-pop with turbocharged 21st century production values.

And there was enough of those songs to maintain momentum throughout. Opening with “Future Nostalgia” followed by “Levitating” set the pace brilliantly, and there were high points scattered throughout. A Salsa remake of “Boys Will be Boys” – based on the Zach Witness remix of the song from the Club Future Nostalgia remix album – followed by an extra disco-fied take on “Physical” pressed all the right dancefloor buttons. These were accompanied by The Blessed Madonna, who supervised that remix project, bopping cheerfully in a DJ booth with the air of a benevolent glee club teacher. 

Dua Lipa and friends, againWhat didn’t work so well were older tracks – there were far too many reggaetón / tropical house interludes from the period where Lipa was still finding herself as an artist and trying to cover too many transatlantic bases – and the superstar guests. FKA Twigs poledancing? Miley Cyrus and Bad Bunny on TV screens? Kylie looking and acting like Claire Dunphy from Modern Family at a wedding? Elton John appearing on a massive screen like the dictator of some sci-fi dystopia and mooing his way through a couple of verses of “Rocket Man” like a Vic Reeves parody of himself? Bar TBM’s genial brood mother background presence, none really added anything.

Lipa’s performance itself didn’t exactly play to her strengths. It looks a lot like she spent the whole lockdown period in intensive dance lessons: where she’s previously been endearingly awkward in videos, here she kept pace with the professional dancers, and threw all the right shapes. But her locking into the show’s machine, throwing “fierce” poses and faces at all the right times kept her personality locked away. It spoke volumes that the time she felt most natural – and happy – was throwing goofy rave shapes during a DJ-backed take on “One Kiss”.

Of course it all came together in a glitter-blasting, neon-flashing, doubly-choreographed finale of “Don’t Start Now”, which sounded as great as ever in its live incarnation. The show was anything but a disappointment: it was big shiny fun, with a big shiny fun pop star at the heart of it. But now that Lipa IS such a big star, wouldn’t it have been better to blow away some of the tropical house and special guest chaff? And wouldn’t it be better to let the dancers dance and let her be herself, instead of meshing her gears to those of the spectacle around her?

@joemuggs

 

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