This cover timing would have worked out regardless, because it’s tied to what the release date was supposed to be for Dua Lipa’s new album. But then her album came out early, right when we were all settling into this quarantine, and it was framed as a fresh pop-culture treat to get us through the rough times and it did got HUGE attention. People went nuts for it. Without that, people might still have seen this and thought, “Wait, who? Have I heard a song by her? Do I care?”; now, there is a much greater probability the reaction will be, “Ooooh, I know her, she put out an album right when I needed it.” So in that sense, this cover is accidentally riding a wave that crested at a better time.
The cover features Dua in a tacky, hideous wound of a Gucci dress, a black-and-purple version of which Naomi Campbell wore to the British Fashion Awards afterparty (and it helped land her in Fug Madness). And I cannot think of a less inspiring or invigorating or enticing version of the future than this lackadaisical pose, that languid face, that body language that suggests she THOUGHT about doing an arm stretch but it’s just too much WORK. I know Elle can only do so much about what it had already shot and sent to print, but seriously, I do not want to be any more bummed out about things than I already am, and this is not helping. At all.
This one had a slim chance to be better:
She’s wearing a Moschino guitar. That sentence alone should inspire more whimsy than anything ELSE about this photo does. Like, she and Sarah Hyland are both naked on magazine covers this month hidden behind a large object, and Sarah made a simple hat look like way more fun. The inside photo of her with this is at least a LITTLE more lively, if also a bit stereotypically Miley. The entire spread is dead-faced. Not everyone is a model — I am not! It’s fine! — so I think maybe she needed a bit more help.
At the end of the profile, Elle explains that the cover and magazine profile were all done and dusted pre-Covid shutdown, and therefore, the story that appears in the magazine is different than this one. Once everything began to unfold, Elle dispatched the writer via Zoom to chat to Dua again, and construct a fresh piece for the website that felt a little more in sync with the times. That’s a really interesting decision on Elle’s part, and a wise one. This is the version that people can more easily get hold of right now, and pass around, and so they’ve done what they can to adjust it so that it’s not discordant. (Also, Dua was on the cover of Elle exactly a year ago, and most of what’s new between now and then — other than a Grammy — is Covid and how it affected her album.) I feel for anyone who has a new project due out right now. Who knows where the world will be when The Heir Affair comes out in July, or when they’ll start printing books again, but we’re in a comparatively sweeter spot there than all the authors and other artists whose work got understandably gobbled up by the March and early April news cycles. Dua says in the story that she had been weighing whether to delay her April 3 album release — lots of other artists have put off their new music, and she’s still not quite a household name over here so I’m sure there is a lot riding on this record. But then someone leaked it a week early, so she just rolled with that. And whether that was serendipity or a savvy business move, it seems to have worked in her favor: Twitter was bursting with people who got a boost from her dance jams — the perfect album at the perfect time — and most of them will always associate it and her with their coping mechanisms for what I hope is the most singular time in our history. We need good things in the world. We need treats. We need peppy beats. We need surprises that don’t make us cry. So, it may not have been how or when she imagined putting her songs out into the world, but to a lot of listeners it felt like a gift, gratefully received.