New Rules

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Kristin Smith

Album Review

Who is Dua Lipa?

This 22-year-old Brit (of Albanian descent) first broke onto the scene as a model. But it turns out singing was her first love: She’d been covering artists on YouTube for years when she caught the ear of Warner Bros. execs in 2015.

Lipa is already red-hot in her native England, where (according to Rolling Stone) she was the most-streamed female musician of 2017. And with her hit “New Rules,” she’s starting to heat things up on this side of the pond, too. That track peaked near the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and the video for the song has topped a billion views on YouTube.

So just what are the “New Rules” Lipa is singing about here? Suffice it to say she’s determined to set some new relationship boundaries in a toxic romance.

Get You Some Rules

The song’s video begins at the hotel Confidante in Miami, which finds Dua Lipa lying on a bed in her room. She confesses to a group of female friends surrounding her that she’s “talkin’ in my sleep at night” and “makin’ myself crazy” over a man who “makes me feel like nobody else.” But there’s a problem: “He doesn’t love me,” Lipa admits bluntly.

What better way to get over a guy than having your girlfriends close by for solidarity? After all, they’ll help you remember those “new rules” you came up with in order to stay away from a guy who’s nothing but bad news. The rules themselves are threefold:

One: “Don’t pick up the phone/You know he’s only calling ’cause he’s drunk and alone.”

Two: “Don’t let him in/You’ll have to kick him out again.”

Three: “Don’t be his friend/You know you’re gonna wake up in his bed in the morning/And if you’re under him, you ain’t gettin’ over him.”

When Lipa recites these rules the first time (in a short, yellow dress surrounded by friends in shorts and crop-tops), she does so with little to no confidence. She needs her friends to speak the rules directly to her (in the video), and to redirect her away from lovingly drawing hearts on the mirrors or desperately reaching for the phone.

When Lipa recites the rules a second time, she’s with her girlfriends (in a bra and skirt, then in a bathrobe) who help to remind her, “I keep pushin’ forwards.” And if she wants to heal and move on, she must “finally see the pattern.” Slowly she builds her self-esteem as she walks on water (an obvious visual metaphor here for her personal growth) with her friends, all of them now sporting bikinis.

The last time Lipa reiterates her rules, she does so to another young woman who’s obviously in the same sinking relational boat the singer was recently in. Now she understands that “practice makes perfect,” that she must “eat, sleep, and breathe it,” so that she can “rehearse and repeat it.” That’s what it takes to resist falling back into to her old, destructive old patterns with this guy.

Lipa definitely deserves credit for having the courage to recognize a bad relationship for what it is and for doing the hard work to cut it off. Bravo. That said, the song also says (and somewhat crudely so) that sex was one of the main elements in the relationship. That casual admission still sends the signal that sex and romance are one and the same—a problematic message even as she still tries to deliver an otherwise empowering one.

‘Rocket Fuel’

Dua Lipa’s success in the U.S. wasn’t an overnight story, even though it might seem as if she’s surged to the top of the charts from out of nowhere. In fact, she waited nearly a year (after her album’s release) to film the video for this song. Once it made its way to the internet, however, “New Rules” became a viral sensation.

In an interview with Billboard, the singer shared that the success of her video caught her off-guard: “Everyone was reposting it and sending it to their friends, and I was just like, ‘What is happening? Like, the views were just soaring, and that’s just never happened before. It was like rocket fuel for the song.”

Rocket fuel it was, fueling a billion views … and counting.

And while the song has some worldview issues to reckon with when it comes to cultural expectations about love and sex, the core message here is a strong one. Duo Lipa is setting healthy boundaries for herself that she didn’t have in the past, “new rules” that might just keep her from repeating the same mistakes in the future.

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Kristin Smith

Kristin Smith joined the Plugged In team in 2017. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. She and her husband, Eddy, love raising their children Judah and Selah. Kristin also has a deep affection for coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan).

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