Behind The Scenes At Dua Lipa’s ‘Houdini’ Launch

Up close with an icon and her fans...

Arguably one of the most eagerly awaited returns in pop music was that of Dua Lipaher last studio record landing in 2020, with a few moments of virality sprinkled between then and now (most notably her contribution to Greta Gerwig’s ‘Barbie’ soundtrack). A few weeks ago, Dua did the classic, archiving her entire Instagram and hard launching a stunning new hairdo, and in turn kicking off a new era. Her new single had been teased tastefully, slick snippets and personnel reveals further upped the excitement for ‘Houdini’. And in order to celebrate the release, Dua scheduled a trio of fan-exclusive listening events, the first of which taking place in London. 

Thursday night on Leamouth Peninsula during the winter is hardly an ideal way to spend the evening: cold, wet, dark. But none of that seemed to matter to the fortunate fans who’d earlier received an invite to this elusive event. An air of anticipation hovered above the queue; excitement met with a sense of ‘what’s going to happen?’ A group girls from London were drinking canned gin and tonics to ease the cold, a group from Spain hiding under their umbrella didn’t let the weather deter their excitement. A handful of bold youngsters hovered outside the ropes, keenly asking those in the queue for spare invites to no success – some going as far to offer to pay for entry. An armada of well-dressed security guards added to the allure, mystique and exclusivity of whatever was hidden inside the building.

When the doors finally opened, the event became a little clearer. This hotly anticipated ‘listening party’ took place inside the English National Ballet, a huge rehearsal studio kitted out to feel more rave-time, less arabesque. Later in the evening it became clear that it was the set for the music video, but until then the room was emblazoned with mirrors, subtle smoke machines, a mammoth speaker rig in each corner of the room, and most importantly a countdown – ticking toward nine o’clock. A free bar and plenty of cool Instagram-ready photo opportunities appeased the swathes of people, a DJ spinning some subtle modern funk and disco numbers to keep the room warmed up. 

Dua Lipa appeared at just after nine stepping up to the DJ platform, much to the elation of the packed-out room. A sea of phone torches and shrieks echoed around, Dua laughing while waiting to reveal what actually was about to happen. “This feels so surreal – my heart’s racing. I can’t believe we’re finally hear again. So tonight: ‘Houdini’. We’re gonna do the first play on earth for you guys, you’re gonna get to see the video and hear the song before anyone else. You ready?” Dua said between whoops and cheers, before the giant screen (previously home to the countdown) lit up with the first tase of Dua’s new world. 

As the video played Dua herself watched intently, often checking to see crowd reactions. Every so often a smattering of applause would erupt in response to a new section or highlight of the beautifully choregraphed music video. Many were less interested in the video and more focused on the star herself – plenty of phones been waved at Dua to encourage her to take their BeReal. Grateful as ever, she played the video again, closing with thanks and disappearing as quickly as she’d arrived.

@clashmagazine Dua Lipa launching her new single “Houdini” last night in London 🪄 #dualipa #dualipahoudini #dualipalondon #dualipalive ♬ original sound – Clash Magazine

Though it’s hard to achieve a level of intimacy with fans once you’ve reached a certain level, Dua appearing for ten-minutes to a room of hundreds seemed a bit of a let-down for some – “I was hoping for something a bit smaller, or for her to at least stick around,” one fan said on the way out. 

Not everyone was disappointed with Dua’s brevity. One fan who was attempting to find a spare ticket from the queue (“I’ll pay anything!” was his elevator pitch) managed to make it in – “this is the best night of my life,” he said. The consensus on ‘Houdini’ was incredibly positive, the new hair, new era, slightly new sound finally quenching the thirst of the fans. Witnessing the video itself on a cinema-sized screen is definitely a way to let you fans enter a new album cycle, and though her presence was brief, Dua was truly radiating gratitude, love and excitement.   

Words: James Mellen

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