Perhaps inspired by her visit to the Johnson Space Center earlier in the week, Dua Lipa shows up to try Texas barbecue for the first time in what can only be described as astronaut drip. The British–Kosovar Albanian singer is wearing flared, silver Courrèges trousers that look like one half of a groovy space suit, and diamond Eéra carabiner earrings that might come in handy if the International Space Station were to radio “Houston, we have a problem” down to Mission Control. Houston is one stop of 28 on the US leg of Dua’s Future Nostalgia world tour, delayed three times until this year, when it was finally given a go for launch.
Space—a sense of the universal and the communal—provides a metaphor for what she hopes to achieve with her music, Dua explains, as we settle into a back corner table at Truth BBQ, a Central Texas–style joint in the historic Heights neighborhood of my childhood hometown. “Everyone has their own version of spirituality,” she says. “Sometimes when you talk about it, it can sound cliché. But for me, God is just what you put out there and what you get back. I’m trying to bring people together with music, trying to bring light, do you know? There’s a cosmic element to sharing songs that make people feel seen or understood.”
Bringing people together with music—and dancing, and roller-skating, and vast quantities of rainbow confetti—is just what Dua accomplishes on tour for her acclaimed second album. Her 90-minute show by Ella is a disco-themed birthday party for grown-ups, though revelers young enough to require protective headphones are invited too. The set list draws almost entirely from the infectiously dance-y Future Nostalgia, which was released, inopportunely, in March 2020. But the two-year delay between album and tour only seems to hype the show’s party atmosphere.
“I didn’t get to see people’s reaction to the album in real life,” she tells me. “So being on tour and seeing the crowds is like, Oh, it was a really big album. I get so excited seeing people coming together as a collective.”
Dua’s fun ride of a show pays testament to how far the 26-year-old has come as a performer, and proudly showcases her improved dance skills, where everything from swing to tango to pole dance shows up in the moves she’s honed with choreographer Charm La’Donna, a former backup dancer for Madonna who’s worked with Selena Gomez and Kendrick Lamar. Even a viral shimmy Dua was mocked for on TikTok a few years ago finds its way into her encore performance of “Don’t Start Now,” a physical clapback to the haters, with a dash of self-deprecation.
“All I ever wanted was for it to be about the music,” Dua says. “My goal was, I want the music to be good enough so that people would talk about that more than anything else. But unless you’re a fully formed pop star who’s trained in pop-star camp for five fucking years before you hit the stage for the first time, one misstep, one wrong move, one dance that doesn’t really work and it’s used against you. That was fucking hard for me.”