Hitmakers: Elite songwriter Sarah Hudson on the making of Dua Lipa's smash single Physical

Hitmakers: Elite songwriter Sarah Hudson on the making of Dua Lipa's smash single Physical

In 2020, Dua Lipa reigned supreme with her blockbuster album Future Nostalgia. Arguably, its greatest moment arrived via its adrenalised single Physical. Here, elite songwriter Sarah Hudson recalls how it all started with some tarot cards...

I first met Dua Lipa when she was a new artist doing the rounds of sessions while making her first album. She was so young, but so focused – she was a great writer and had that voice. We wrote Genesis in one day, and that ended up going on her record and our relationship just developed from there. I remember thinking she was really special that day. I just had a feeling. 

For her second album, we did a lot of songs trying to figure out the vibe and the direction. Love Is Religion, which is now on Club Future Nostalgia, was one of the first but it was when we wrote Levitating that we said, ‘OK, this is a vibe’. Things took shape from there and we wrote Physical a few months later.

I like to go into a room and talk for hours about what’s going on in someone’s life, what they’re feeling, what they feel is necessary to say to the world before we even start writing. I learned how to read Tarot cards, it’s a big part of my life and it brings a magic into the room – you really get to know somebody by doing a Tarot reading with them. They’re a good icebreaker, so we start all of our sessions like that with Dua – we love to pull cards and bring a magical element to it, it’s all just very inspiring. I bring my cards in, we do a reading, we start talking about life and eventually a word or a sentence will pop out and I log it in my brain and draw from real emotion. 

Myself, Dua, [Clarence] Coffee and the producer Jason [Evigan] had such energy together – it was a really fun vibe. Obviously, it does pay homage to Olivia Newton-John’s song Physical – which is one of the best songs ever – but it’s also its own beast. We were also inspired by a lot of other ’80s music, like Madonna and Blondie. In the ’80s, Madonna would always do those spoken word bridges or, on Rapture, Blondie had that rap, so we wanted to try and get that in there somehow. Dua’s just seemed to work perfectly in that part – everything drops out and then it explodes into this big anthem chorus, it just made the chorus feel even bigger.


Dua’s an amazing songwriter... She helped me get out of my head and into my heart

Sarah Hudson


What did Dua bring to the song? One of the coolest qualities about her is her voice. You can immediately tell it’s her when you hear one of her songs – it’s very distinctive, that sort of deep, smoky vibe. And then, with the subject matter of the song, it brings an even sexier quality to it.

Dua is also an amazing songwriter. She should really be looked at as that, too, because this album was her vision. She’s an artist in every way, and that’s what makes her such a star. As a songwriter, you can get very writer-y, like, ‘This has to rhyme!’ or, ‘This has to fit in this box!’ But writing with Dua? If she feels it, she’s into it; if she doesn’t feel it, she’s not. She’s able to express that so easily. That is just such an incredible way to approach songwriting: if you feel it in your heart and gut, that is what you should go with! Dua really helped me get out of my head and into my heart. That’s one of the many reasons that I love her.

It was so cool that Gwen Stefani and Mark Ronson did the remix on Club Future Nostalgia. The fact that Gwen is on it is so unreal – she’s one of my bucket list artists that I really would love to work with. I just thought it was so cool how they flipped it and you would have never expected to hear it that way.

It’s been nice to get good feedback on Physical from all angles but, honestly, what matters to me most is that the artist loves it. Whether a song becomes a single or it’s praised, or wins awards or whatever, that’s all a bonus and, trust me, that’s amazing when that happens! But if the artist loves it? And if the audience loves it? That means I’ve done my job.


Writer’s Notes 

Dua Lipa, Jason Evigan, Clarence Coffee Jr, Sarah Hudson

Release date

Record label
Warner Records

Total UK Sales (OCC)


For more stories like this, and to keep up to date with all our market leading news, features and analysis, sign up to receive our daily Morning Briefing newsletter

subscribe link free-trial link

follow us...