Empowerment through Music: Dua Lipa at The Cambridge Union

Bec Algie 24 October 2019
Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons

From ‘Be the One’ to ‘Hotter Than Hell’ to ‘IDGAF’, Dua Lipa has released hit after hit, making waves within the music industry.

According to Spotify’s figures, she is now the most-streamed female musician in the world, amassing a total of more than five billion streams. The success of ‘New Rules’ marked a crucial milestone in her flourishing career, making her the youngest female artist on record to attain one billion music video views and on 21st October, she made waves again at the Cambridge Union.

Unsurprisingly, the chamber was packed with spectators, eager for Dua’s appearance, and from the moment that she entered the room, she gripped their attention. Before the Question-and-Answer session began, Dua delivered a speech filled with shocking statistics in relation to the success of women in the music industry. She quoted a study by Stacy Smith, analysing the Billboard Hot 100 chart between 2012 and 2018, which revealed that the proportion of female artists in the charts totalled a figure of just 17% and only 2.1% of the tracks had female producers. These revelations set a precedent for the rest of her speech and interview as Dua used her platform to highlight the inequalities of not just the music industry but also society as a whole, and shared her thoughts on how we can work together to make a change.

“…a study by Stacy Smith, analysing the Billboard Hot 100 chart between 2012 and 2018, … revealed that the proportion of female artists in the charts totalled a figure of just 17% and only 2.1% of the tracks had female producers…”

“How do we reverse those figures and make the music industry a place where women have opportunity and respect and can realise their full career potential?” Dua asked, before sharing her “five-point plan for the industry to evolve”. Her ideas included having more women in leadership roles; encouraging girls in schools to play “traditionally masculine instruments” such as mixing decks; introducing diversity audits to all sectors of the industry; setting inclusionary goals to hire more women to write and produce music; and finally, ensuring that the studio is a safe and inclusionary space for artists to write. She concluded her plan with a plea for artists to “invoke a be kind policy” on social media which, again, led to a discussion which has evident relevance to our technologically-minded generation.

It is indisputable that our love-hate relationship with social media can have detrimental effects on our mental health and Dua discussed her relationship with such platforms. She acknowledged the fact that the online world has played a crucial role in the success of her career as “when [she] started recording music, [she] found [her] audience through social media”. Dua went on to say that “social media can be an amazing place to share friendship and support”; however, she qualified this statement with the dark reality that “it can also be a breeding ground for hate, negativity and anxiety”. It was refreshing to hear such an open and honest reflection on the realities of a life in the limelight and I felt that Dua used her platform in an unfiltered manner to provide a sense of support and encouragement to not only women in the music industry but every individual in the room and beyond.

Check out Dua Lipa’s top tracks on Spotify below!

This sense of encouragement and realism manifests itself within Dua’s work.

Her song ‘New Rules’ has become known as an anthem of female empowerment, which has resonated with people all across the world. However, it was interesting to hear, during her interview, that Dua did not actually create her music videos with a feminist message in mind. She believes that this interpretation of her videos is due to the female representation within them and that she is “glad that [they are] seen that way”. Dua went on to state that she feels that “there’s a massive misconception about feminism in general” as some people believe that “it’s about man-eating” when its goal is, in fact, to achieve equality. Perhaps with her platform and through her music, Dua will make this heard.

“Her song ‘New Rules’ has become known as an anthem of female empowerment, which has resonated with people all across the world. However, it was interesting to hear, during her interview, that Dua did not actually create her music videos with a feminist message in mind…”

From gender equality to kindness on social media, Dua highlighted so many important topics during her appearance at the Cambridge Union and I think that there is no better way to summarise the essence of her interview than by concluding with the following message that she delivered: “we are the future and if we start making a change then we will see a positive change for years to come”.

What did you think? Let us know at editor@tcs.cam.ac.uk with the subject line ‘Letter to the Editor’!