Hot 100: Don’t Start Now by Dua Lipa

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It’s a risk to take a week off from looking at the Billboard list to do a special release. Sometimes, like with Circles, you miss a great song and have to wait longer to hear it because more stuff keeps coming out. Other times, though, you get lucky and the song you’re covering jumps even higher and in fact did not miss your chance to look at it.

I got that second chance this week by getting the pleasure to listen to Don’t Start Now for more of a purpose than its a song I like. In fact I like Dua Lipa a lot. IDGAF was a solid pop hit. It showed she had potential to bring a new light and energy to the scene. New Rules redefined current pop music for me. It was really well written, had killer vocals, and a really good composition. She also did One Kiss with Calvin Harris which is fine but not her fault. Anyway here we are now with her next big hit.

Don’t Start Now comes out the headphones swinging as one of the funkiest jams this side of pop. The whole beat has a lot of complexity. From the drops to the pitch and beat changes, and the accented tri-tap of a bell or something it is all just totally solid. The big turn that sold me on the song from the first listen was the drop into the funkiest bass riff on the line “Don’t show up, don’t come out.” It works in a lot of ways, but to get into it means getting into the lyrics and themes of the song. 

On the surface this seems like a simple song. It is simple, but like New Rules and IDGAF Dua Lipa is able to put this special spin on the project to add a new dimension to what should be just a regular break up/I’m done/over you song. Which, quick digression, if you have to make a song saying you are over someone then you clearly are not. This song manages to avoid that from line one. 

The introduction is short but gets to the point, “If you don’t wanna see me” Is a statement, but instead of saying that she is just over him and is better she is putting that onus onto the other half of the relationship. The intro also sets the tone only to subvert it and go into chorus one where she says how she feels different because of the relationship, but she managed to move on even though it is scary. Its expressed well in the vocals and through the visuals of doing a full 180 on her whole personality, and shows some actual self reflection like in the aforementioned line, “DId the heartbreak change me? Maybe.” This all sets up her current state of going out to prove how strong she is and in a different place she is emotionally. 

This then transitions to what I would say is more of a bridge that reinforces the onus of holding the other half of the ex-relationship accountable by saying, “If you don’t wanna see me dancing with somebody, if you wanna believe that anything could stop me…” These are the start of statements that are answered by the chorus.

The chorus is the best part of the song by far. It is set up strong lyrically as stated before, but also in the beat. The beat builds and builds only to drop and transition in the funk bass guitar riff. All of that throws you for a loop, just like where Dua Lipa takes the song. Instead of answering in a generic empowerment anthem she says, “Don’t show up, don’t come out.” This is immediately a turn into the unexpected. This unexpect bite continues for the rest of the chorus where she says, “Walk away, you know how. Don’t start caring about me now.” That is such a good twist on the usual idea of breakups and getting over the person. It calls the other person out on their behavior, and reinforces that she is independent by saying not to try now. It would have been so easy to say because she is better now, or stronger. Instead just that turn to don’t start now makes her feel strong, and calls that she has learned and won’t go back. 

This pivot continues in the second verse where she says, “Aren’t you the guy who tried to hurt me with the word ‘goodbye’?” Which, that just cuts to the heart doesn’t it? Especially as someone who lives in the south. That sneering, trying to be polite but really being rude way of talking is just all too real. She continues on by saying how it took time to get better but made it out on the other side. There is this weird vocal thing she does where… okay I need to back up. I say the other half of the relationship because she doesn’t give the person a gender and I don’t want to assume. My bias makes me assume it’s a guy, but her line “got better on the side” makes it sound like she’s saying “I got her on the other side.” I think it might be intentional. That’s not to say lesbian anthems aren’t big money. Katy Perry built her career out of “I Kissed a Girl” after all. Instead I think it’s subtle to call out either gender and relationship type you can have for being bad. It’s really subtle but I couldn’t get it out of my head.

After this however the song does weaken due to it just repeating the chorus and bridge, and focusing more on the beat. The beat is good but I do not have any more to say on it from that point other than how it ends well on a high note. That’s not entirely true I guess. In the second drop and chorus they add in indistinct party cheers and talking. It adds a good atmosphere by really envisioning that she is at a party, but that is really it. It’s still the same solid chorus so it all works, and adds a nice flair.

The music video works well to help build what the song is about. It begins with a flash forward where Dua Lipa drags us out of a club and throw us onto the curb. The video jumps back from that intro to show Dua Lipa singing and partying at different clubs in what looks like the most over-complicated top of all time. During it she looks at the camera, but because we know the flash forward it feels directed at us, the other half of the relationship. It all really works to build both the theme and party feel the song has.

I am a guy, so lots of girls clothes are complicated. But how does this thing go on? Is it a top or just an elevated bra? How do you take it off. I feel so lucky that she gets a whole wardrobe team to help because I get lost in all those straps.

I really like this song, but it has the same problem The Weeknd song did. I like the one I got, but I know that there is one that hasn’t charted as high (that might be changing as Blinding Light is rising in the chart). Her second song, Physical, is even better and bodes well for her upcoming album. Listen to this song. It’s great.

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