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  • Writer's pictureBenjamin Kassel

Dua Lipa says "We're Good" and means it

News flash, singers: Breakups can be calm.

Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of breakup songs. There aren’t many ways to say someone broke your heart and you’ll never forgive them. It almost seems like a requirement for a major-label female pop star in this day and age to have at least a couple breakup-themed singles in their arsenal, and it’s so irritating because they’re almost never original in their narrative.

The key word in that previous sentence, though, is “almost.” Dua Lipa found a way to write an original breakup song — she removed the spite from the disunion. “We’re Good,” released on Future Nostalgia (The Moonlight Edition) earlier this year, is a song about an amicable breakup, something that’s fairly common but hasn’t been a narrative for a pop hit since Whitney Houston’s cover of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” (yes, that’s a cover). “We’re Good”’s calm, accepting narrative is a breath of fresh air for the pop world, and its sound reflects that mood.

The instrumental has somewhat of a tropical sound in the verses, mostly owing to the reggae-style organ synth, which sounds a bit submerged at times because of how it's filtered The trap drums easily ride on the organ groove, and the bass is light and sparse. The second verse sports an extra, watery synth pad, and one could argue that a sound like that supports the tropical/island vibe.

Speaking of an island, that’s how Dua describes her current state at the end of the relationship in the song’s opening line: “I’m on an island, even when you’re close.” The romance has deteriorated to the point that she feels isolated within it. At this point the relationship is superficial, in name but not in feeling. The pre-chorus transitions from the feeling of isolation into the acceptance that it’s time to end things. “I think it’s pretty plain and simple,” Dua sings; the feelings for each other aren’t there anymore, but “we gave it all we could.” It’s readily apparent that she still cares about her soon-to-be-former partner, because she isn’t playing the blame game or trying to absolve herself. She’s telling it like it is, absolutely free of malice, and she knows that moving on is the best way forward. "Go get what you want," she sings in the second verse, indicating the other party is seeking something and/or someone else too.

The first change in the track’s chord progression ushers in a clean electric guitar-backed chorus, supplemented by soft hi-hats. It’s perfect for the song that the chorus keeps things low-key — how would an ultra-amplified, ramped-up chorus serve a song about a peaceful breakup? There’s no need to rock the boat (a fitting figure of speech considering the song’s video). The chorus does provide plenty of intrigue, though, in its first line: “We’re not meant to be like sleeping and cocaine.” Even having heard the song as frequently as I have, I still usually laugh when I hear it in the first chorus. It’s just so out there… but I mean, fair enough, Dua, sleeping and cocaine are known to not mix. The more impactful lines for the narrative are a little later on, and they're the fastest-paced lines in the entire track: "Not gonna judge you when you're with somebody else / As long as you swear you won't be pissed when I do it myself." Now that this relationship is over, Dua has no reason to feel bad about moving on, and she hopes her partner feels the same way. It doesn't sound like she thinks she and her now-ex will stay friends, but she at least hopes the ex doesn't have any hard feelings about things ending.

Lo and behold, we get to the bridge after the second verse and chorus (with a couple new layers in each), and what's Dua singing? "Now you're holding this against me, like I knew you would." It can't be that easy, can it? Of course one party is still holding on to some pent-up emotions, if not both. The bridge adds a new layer of depth to the breakup: while Dua sang in the opening line that she was "on an island," it's now clear that her ex didn't feel exactly the same way. It makes me wonder if, in trying to get what they wanted as indicated in the second verse, certain memories and emotions from the previous fling returned to their mind. Her ex won't change how she's feeling, though, and she's "trying [her] best to make this easy" on him. Ideally for her, time will heal the wounds which remain somewhat fresh as of the bridge.

The track's two-minute, forty-five-second length is quite short for a pop song in the year 2021, but that doesn't make it feel too short or lacking. Dua Lipa did exactly what she set out to do in that amount of time: she told the story of a relationship's mostly calm end, from her character's feelings of loneliness in the relationship to the breakup itself and the feelings which remain on one end. Even if a track may feel short while you're creating it, you shouldn't lengthen it just for the sake of lengthening it — if you add something else, it should be something that impacts the narrative, like a short verse, or something fits into the overall sound, like a solo for a prominent instrument. Dua and her writing team correctly decided that none of that was necessary.

"We're Good" is a refreshing slice of pop in many ways. It's the perfect length and sound for the narrative it's trying to convey. There's nothing too fancy about it, but it doesn't need to be fancy for it to be one of the best pop productions of the young decade.


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