Dido - Girl Who Got Away
I like Dido. There you go. Another critical taboo shattered in the name of integrity and, well, the ever-desirable quest to be a contrary bastard. I say ‘like’. In today’s increasingly self-aware currency, that probably equates to ‘don’t hate’. I mean, I’m pretty sure I was a fan of that first album and a pair of ticket stubs from way back confirms me and the missus parked the new born with the in-laws and rushed off for a few pints and an evening of chilled beats on her first tour. Good gig, too, as I recall. But, hey, things get hazy. You know how it is. Slept since then. Hell, slept, moved house half a dozen times, had more jobs than baths. You know? We’re not kids anymore. But then, as the naysayers would be quick to remind us, the Dido demographic weren’t kids back then. Natch.
You all hate her. Fair enough. I get that. Cred is cred after all. But I’ve got an Einstürzende Neubauten 12” somewhere so don’t talk to me about keeping it real. But panic not. This fourth album will do little to encourage a critical about-face that might embarrass. More in line with her previous outing, the drab and unpopular Safe Trip Home, Girl Who Got Away, is a threadbare collection. It’s been talked up as an improvement on its predecessor but it’s hard to see why. It’s no departure, that’s for sure. On this evidence, seven figure sales will remain a thing of the past.
Lead single ‘No Freedom’, a slight but lovely sliver of electro-folk, is the best thing here by some distance. Little else connects. The standard Dido tropes (minimal beats, spare backing, restrained vocals) dominate. The album as a whole is oddly bereft of melody. Kendrick Lamar turns up on 'Let Us Move On' but it's no 'Stan'. Going back to that winning first album, and even Life For Rent, its mega-selling follow-up, there’s nothing here as strong as ‘Here With Me’, ‘This Land is Mine’ or the euphoric ‘See The Sun’. Sure, those first two albums were mocked for being dinner party-friendly but both, in part, knew their way around a tune. Girl Who Got Away is just so flat. Uninvolving and cold, it wafts into the corner of the room. It doesn’t take a class war revivalist to see that its slight narratives, neutral observations, weirdly lacking in viewpoint, would come most easily from a position of comfort rather than desire. Sure, it’s cheap to peg Dido as a millionaire who no longer has the hunger to create and to spark, but this is a bloodless collection.
If this really is your thing, there are countless innovators, both established (Bat For Lashes) and emerging (Daughter) who, in these cash-strapped times, are offering considerably more of themselves.