Dua Lipa had to postpone her Future Nostalgia tour three times, but once she got on the road, inspiration for new music came to her quickly. In fact, she began writing her latest song, “Houdini,” while she was on tour, she tells Rolling Stone for the latest episode of “The Breakdown.”
Lipa returned to London’s 5DB, where she wrote a lot of her upcoming third album, to tell the story of how “Houdini” was put together. She explains that she had been spending time in Los Angeles, where Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker invited her to his home studio.
“Kevin was on the computer, and he was working on the monitors…and he just played a track,” Lipa recalls. The sound was the riff that launches the single, which made her feel “instantly inspired.” The “essence” of the track was born in the first two hours of hearing that riff, and the chorus quickly took shape with the help of Caroline Ailin and Tobias Jesso Jr.
During a different session back in London with Danny L Harle, Parker had been struck with the idea for the song’s middle eight, which changes the chords and tempo before escalating into a synth solo. It helped bring together the dark, clubby euphoria that Lipa wanted out of “Houdini.” She shares that there’s a secret extended club mix that builds out the psychedelic outro that she hopes to release in the future.
As the song developed, Lipa worked through four different versions of the verses before she felt it was finished. She shows off a thick notebook— a random one she says she got at CVS — full of scribbles and lyrics that carried her through all the sessions for her third LP. “I have 97 songs,” she says while holding up the journal. “Houdini,” like the rest of the album, took on more of a diaristic approach, and her sessions with Parker, Harle, Ailin, and Jesso felt like they created a band of sorts.
“The amount of time I’ve spent in the studio, worked with different people, honed in on my craft, and written so many songs, I’ve also come into a place where I feel really confident in who I am and what I want,” she says. “I felt like my voice got stronger because of touring, and there are so many different layers to the way I’ve progressed as an artist. It was very easy for me to not be deviated by all these other incredible artists.”
“Houdini” is the first taste of more music to come from Lipa, and it helps begin a story of the most fun parts of being single. She came into sessions with plenty of “ammo” from her own experiences that fed into these songs.
“Houdini” is also the “vibiest” track that builds a bridge between Future Nostalgia and where she is now. “It really felt like it encapsulated everything that’s to come, even though everything that’s to come is so different. It just felt like a fun way to start.”