Let no one say that Dido hasn’t found a niche in the electronic pop market. When you listen to a Dido song, you pretty much know what to expect: understated, melancholy, sleepy vocals set over a mid-tempo or down-tempo blend of electronic (and occasionally acoustic) instruments. Somewhere between Enya (without the effected voice and Celtic vibe) and Ellie Goulding (with a bad cold and a hefty dose of Ny-Quil).
I’m being tongue-in-cheek, of course, but ironically, it works—sometimes. The problem is, if you’re not careful, a niche can quickly turn into a rut. And while advance press releases promised that Dido’s new release Girl Who Got Away would break out of that rut—unfortunately, it doesn’t.
Dido claimed this album would be a “big, fun, electronic extravaganza.” Maybe she wasn’t lying; maybe she just has a different idea of what the words “big,” “fun” and “extravaganza” mean—or maybe with the best of intentions, Dido’s naturally bland voice can only get so big or fun. All I can say is that even the uptempo numbers sound downtempo. Seriously, every song sounds like a ballad, like pretty much everything else we’ve heard from Dido. The fact that the record opens with one of the most subdued tracks on the record (“No Freedom”) doesn’t help its case much. Hell, even the brief guest appearance by Kendrick Lamar on “Let Us Move On” doesn’t help pick up the pace; in fact, in the context of the record, Lamar’s rap actually sounds out of place.
Now just so we’re clear—I’m not calling this a “bad” album in itself. If this were the only album Dido had ever done, it would be just fine. The problem is context—it sounds too much like everything else Dido has done. Add to that the misleading adjectives sent out ahead of the record, and it paints an unfortunate picture of an otherwise good artist who seems to suffer from a lack of dynamic range. Dido basically shot herself in the foot by sending off a vibe that Girl Who Got Away would be different.
That being said, if you are a fan of Dido’s earlier work, you will find plenty to like about the first album she’s released in half a decade. It looks, feels, and sounds very much like Dido, and it is well within her niche. But if you feel like Dido’s niche is more like a rut, and you were hoping for something new and exciting, you’re likely to be disappointed.