How Dua Lipa went from obscurity to $36m superstardom
Friday - 02/04/2021 08:34
In a few short years she’s become one of the world’s biggest pop stars – a meteoric rise for a girl raised by refugee parents in a council flat.
As the most nominated artist at this year’s Brit Awards, Dua Lipa has already reached the top in pop – and that’s before she likely walks away with a couple more of its awards.
The 25-year-old singer has landed three nominations ahead of next month’s ceremony, including Album Of The Year for her 2020 breakthrough smash Future Nostalgia, which transformed her from darling of the critics to mainstream superstar.
Unsurprisingly the triumph has also earned her vast sums, with new paperwork this week revealing assets in excess of $35 million after a bumper 12 months.
But last March, with the Covid crisis looming as her masterpiece dance pop album was being prepared for release, things could easily have worked out dramatically differently.
As Dua later revealed, label executives even considered pulling the launch of her record, as so many other A-listers have done, cutting their losses as the live music industry was forced into an indefinite hiatus.
But confident in the brilliance of the songs, which include huge singles Physical, Don’t Start Now, Levitating and Break My Heart — and hit by an infuriating online leak of some of the music — Dua and her management team took the plunge and went ahead with its release.
It may turn out to be one of pop’s most inspired moves for a generation.
As one executive at Warner Records told trade bible Music Week: “The idea that we would have physical copies sitting in store rooms across America … . it was going to be impossible to fix a future date and hold the record in, and it was leaking anyway, so we said, ‘We’ve got to roll’.”
Dua later added: “I’d be lying if I said it was totally fine and I was so ready for whatever was going to happen.
“I was definitely scared, because there’s always that uncertainty. I put it out just as lockdown was happening in the UK and there was so much uncertainty and suffering, it was a very confusing time.
“We didn’t know how long we’d be in this. Some people were saying two weeks, some were saying six months and I had no idea.
“The thing that made me want to put it out at the time is that I made this record as a form of escapism, to get away from any pressures or words from other people.
“It was the reason why this album was created, so if there was any time to put it out, it should be now.”
The decision led to an anxious wait — compounded when the album was beaten to No1 by boyband 5 Seconds Of Summer, in a disappointing first-week blow which could have been a devastating confidence knock.
But quickly, as hugely positive reviews rolled in from respected critics, momentum began to build, radio play rocketed and the album made a rapid climb to the top of the listings.
Dua said: “It could have gone one of two ways and I’m glad it went that way. I’m glad people responded to it.”
The brave gamble was paying off, in contrast to the strategy of a host of other stars including Adele, who had opted to delay their album release. As a result Dua raked in the cash and accolades, and became one of the world’s most streamed artists.
Only Lewis Capaldi and Harry Styles recorded bigger UK sales figures in 2020, the latter only narrowly ahead, and Dua’s latest cash accounts confirm her success.
Paperwork released this week reveals assets at her company Dua Lipa Limited of more than $33 million — a hike of almost $15 million on the previous 12 months. A second company, Dua Lipa Live LLP, has more than $3 million more.
Admittedly, she did miss out on a lucrative arena tour, which could easily have sold out worldwide and boosted her income even more.
Warner executive Joe Kentish said: “As Dua says herself, the whole album was written with a view to being performed live.
“Her tours had been really growing at the end of the first record and so this one, she saw where it was going and wanted a record that she could tour and do one of those massive world arena tours that she’d always dreamt of.
“When she was writing the songs she imagined herself singing them at Glastonbury — that’s how she envisioned whether it was going to have the right energy.
“But all that went out the window with so many other things. It felt the opposite of this record she’d made.”
Industry insiders are also quick to credit Dua’s management team, Tap Music, who also mastermind the careers of Lana Del Rey and Ellie Goulding.
The firm, run by business partners Ben Mawson and Ed Millett — named managers of the year by their peers — even managed to line up a Madonna collaboration for their rapidly rising star, and insist that they and Dua will have another album out by the time the pandemic is truly over.
The chance for Dua to work with the Queen of Pop may prove to be more symbolic of the young singer’s career trajectory than at first sight.
At her first meeting with Ben, when she was just 17, she told him she “aspired to be Madonna”.
Now, six Grammy nominations and one win at last month’s ceremony have affirmed her status as a global pop superstar. And her live-streamed Studio 2054 concert became the most-watched event of its kind last year, with five million fans seeing Dua perform with guests including Kylie Minogue, Elton John and Miley Cyrus.
High-profile romances, including model Anwar Hadid, brother of supermodels Gigi and Bella, have seen her increasingly prominent in A-list social circles, while friends include Coldplay’s Chris Martin, Taylor Swift and Katy Perry.
It has been an extraordinary journey for Dua. Born in 1995 in London to Kosovan Albanian parents Dukagjin and Anesa, she grew up in a former council flat before the family moved back to Kosovan capital Pristina when she was 11.
But just four years later her obvious talent and musical ambition led her parents to allow her to pursue her dreams, and 15-year-old Dua moved back to the UK, where she stayed with a family friend.
Low-paid jobs as a waitress and on nightclub doors brought her interest from modelling agents and work with brands including Topshop and Asos. Then a cameo in an ITV advert for The X Factor saw her introduced to a music producer, and later the management firm which she still uses.
Her first commercial success, 2015 single Be The One, was produced while she was still working at a London restaurant and hit the top 10 in the UK and Australia.
In 2017 New Rules, the sixth single from her debut album, became her first No1 — and a slot at Glastonbury Festival the same year won plaudits from the music press and fans alike.
Today she is often the glitziest, hardest-partying star in showbiz and often the last on the dance floor at glamorous red-carpet events and festivals alike.
To borrow from the title of one recent hit … . she’s levitating. Fast.