The reserved alterna-pop chanteuse Dido has returned. With her debut No Angel (1999), Dido created a space between singer-songwriter introspection and other ambitious sound-mines (i.e.-trip-hop). However, when Dido’s third LP Safe Trip Home (2008) arrived, she’d been (somewhat) supplanted by similarly restrained vocalists Jem and Lenka.
The four years separating Life For Rent (2003) from Safe Trip Home didn’t wait for Dido to catch up. This isn’t to say that her flooding the market every year, or every other year, would have saved her chart fortunes. But, there was a sense of sameness that politely crept throughout Safe Trip Home; even with its treasures (“Don’t Believe In Love,” “Let’s Do the Things We Normally Do”) a shake-up was required for the British singer.
Here we are in 2013, another four years elapsed since Safe Trip Home. Dido makes it clear that she doesn’t rush projects, if her album incubation periods are any indication. Thankfully, the long wait is justified with a recharged Dido on the Girl Who Got Away. Her fourth album gently interpolates an electric production lining that enlivens and enhances Dido’s accented flair on the late-night-lights of “End of Night.” The neon orchestral swells and surfs don’t stop there, they propel the title cut and “Let Us Move On” wonderfully. The latter features current hip-hopper Kendrick Lamar dropping in a rhyme.
Now, before anyone assumes that Dido is contradicting her (unspoken) stance on trending for chart appeal, this is the same woman who worked with Eminem on “Stan.” Eminem sampled the Dido ballad evergreen “Thank You” for “Stan”; Dido even had a cameo in the accompanying music video as the girlfriend of the aforementioned song character. Thus, while Lamar’s feature doesn’t add or subtract from “Let Us Move On,” it feels as if the partnership was born out of mutual admiration versus a commercial acquiesce.
“All I See” has a similar problem; decked out in spy film melodrama, Dido still shoehorned an appearance in from Pete Miser. Much like Lamar, his rap isn’t terrible, but is (again) unneeded.
A pair of smooth, summer night festivities are heard on “Love to Blame” and “Go Dreaming”; each dance groovily, supplied with flirtations of horns, percussion, and synth bubbles. The album could have benefitted with more cuts along the lines of “Love to Blame” and Go Dreaming.” As it is, there are other noteworthy nuggets; “No Freedom” has a punctual drum line that rolls in right on time to do the emotional heavy lifting.
The highlight of the recording is “Blackbird,” a magical mixture of lyric, music, and voice that unifies and paints the portrait of Dido’s newest effort beautifully. These productions are courtesy of Rollo Armstrong (Dido’s brother), Greg Kurstin, Rick Nowels, Lester Mendez, Sister Bliss, Brian Eno, and Dido herself (to name some).
Directed By: Ethan Lader
Girl Who Got Away excels on its clean, but always genuine persona that builds on tales of love (won and lost) and various life crises that everyone can relate to. Dido may not be rowdy enough for folks in this decade, but she isn’t any less charming or able. Ranking: Above Average
[Editor’s Note: Version reviewed is the deluxe edition, both are available digitally and physically. For current information on Dido, visit her official site.-QH]