Dua Lipa has charted a skyward trajectory over these past few years, and if her newest single “Houdini” is any indication, she shows no signs of coming back down. It was just three years ago that her aptly named 2020 sophomore album Future Nostalgia, propelled forward by Top-40 smashes the likes of “Levitating” and “Don’t Start Now,” cemented Dua’s place in today’s pop pantheon. Now, hot on the heels of “Dance the Night” – her contribution to Greta Gerwig’s Barbie film- “Houdini” embraces the same ’80s retro-futuristic aesthetic that has become the pop star’s signature.
With a synth bass-heavy, disco-injected groove, “Houdini” evokes a a crisply contemporary take on the drum machine-driven dance floor standards of yore. The atmosphere and production values are a bit reminiscent of Quincy Jones’ and Rod Temperton’s seminal work with Michael Jackson. A little album called Thriller comes to mind when, portentous keys and all, Dua goads her would-be suitors to “…be the one that makes [her] stay” before she makes like the titular escape artist and disappears.
“Houdini’s” accompanying video is a study in accomplishing more with less. No contrived narrative or abstract drama are present, just Dua in a spartan, black and grey rehearsal studio alone but for her reflection. She is eventually joined by a cast of backup dancers, their shared dyed-red hair juxtaposed against the shadowed backdrop and the muted hues of their clothes. The visual play at work here is striking in its simplicity, allowing an infectiously catchy track to do its own heavy-lifting.
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