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Music Review: Dua Lipa’s ‘Radical Optimism’ is controlled dance pop

 In the chorus of “Whatcha Doing,” the fifth track on Dua Lipa’s latest album, she sings: “But if control is my religion / And I’m headed for collision / Lost my 20/20 vision,” referencing the unexpected pull of a new partner.

That sentiment proves true on “Radical Optimism,” a controlled collection of dance tracks, ripe with earworms. Control is Lipa’s religion — often for better, sometimes for worse.

Lipa, 28, won the Grammy for best new artist in 2019, after a four-year stretch that saw her release a debut album to critical and commercial success and then emerge as a radio mainstay with the supremely catchy single “New Rules.” But it was 2020’s “Future Nostalgia” that solidified Lipa’s place in pop music: She was not only a vocal force, but a proven hitmaker.

“Levitating,” that album’s lead single, spent 77 weeks on Billboard’s Hot 100 — the longest time spent on the chart for a song by a woman — and was named Billboard’s No. 1 song of 2021, despite never reaching the top spot in the weekly charts (it peaked at No. 2). It fit easily within Lipa’s roster of enduring radio and dancehall hits, a list that began with “New Rules” and expanded to include “IDGAF,” “One Kiss,” “Physical,” “Don’t Start Now” and most recently, “Dance the Night,” the existential crisis-inducing dance track featured in “Barbie.”

That’s all a hard act to follow. “Radical Optimism” has, in some ways, already pulled its weight — largely because the tracks released ahead of the album — “Houdini,” “Illusion” and “Training Season” — have the classic Lipa hooks that first drove her rise, making for easy pop listening: “Catch me or I go Houdini” — nice — “you think I’m gonna fall for an illusion” — no — “training season’s over” — got it.

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