Why you should care

Because everyone wants to hear the next pop star

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While Dua Lipa was in primary school in London, her music teacher told her she couldn’t join the school choir because, well, she couldn’t sing. Lipa was heartbroken, but years later, after relocating with her family to Kosovo, she arrived at a conclusion: Screw that. At age 15, with her parents’ blessing, she moved back to London to live with friends, attend Sylvia Young Theatre School and pursue music.

The now-20-year-old singer has just two singles, but it appears the verdict is in: She’s the next big thing. At first glance, it’s not hard to see why. Lipa looks like a pop star, packing the usual one-two punch of big hair and bigger lips, which likely explains why Next Model Management signed her at 16. She’s got the management team of a pop star, specifically that of Lana Del Rey. More important, she sounds like a pop star. But then again, she doesn’t.

Her smoky voice and emotive intonations call to mind soul artists like Amy Winehouse and Joss Stone.…

Lipa’s music, which she calls dark pop, oozes non-pop influences. Her smoky voice and emotive intonations call to mind soul artists like Amy Winehouse and Joss Stone (she can even slip into Lauryn Hill territory when the mood strikes), and her honest, relatable subject matter hints at her professed love of hip-hop. This affection was further evidenced when Lipa covered Jamie xx’s “Good Times,” delivering Young Thug’s rhymes with a beguiling mix of soul and swagger, and again in a recent BBC Radio 1 spot when she divulged that she hopes to work with A$AP Rocky someday.

Her first single, the deeply hypnotic “New Love,” surfaced in August, featuring production from FKA Twigs collaborator Emile Haynie and Miike Snow vocalist Andrew Wyatt. The song could easily pass for a tale of romance gone wrong, simultaneously decrying and embracing a barbed cycle of love and disappointment, but Lipa in fact wrote it in response to her struggle to break into the music industry. Her follow-up, the shimmering “Be the One,” moves further into bright, radio-friendly pop, but speaks to the same recidivism, though the pained desperation of “New Love” has been replaced with a newfound sense of optimism.

Given Lipa’s mounting success, this makes sense. With a debut album expected on Warner Bros. later this year and her inclusion in BBC’s Sound of 2016 longlist — which has previously contained Adele and Sam Smith — she’s come a long way from the letdowns of her younger days. There may not have been room for her in the school choir, but there’s clearly a place for Lipa and her earnest, off-kilter pop in the latest generation of rising stars.

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