REVIEW: Dido – Still On My Mind

After 6 years of silence, one of the UK’s best selling singer-songwriters is back, with her distinctive vocals in tow. Dido’s fifth album, ‘Still on My Mind’, has got her fans all excited. Is it as good/bad (delete as appropriate) as you’d expect?

Firstly, let me put it out there that I was, and still am, a fan of ‘No Angel’. Maybe because it was refreshing in comparison to all the disingenuous pop music around at the time. Maybe it’s the nostalgia (I used to listen to it during my one hour allowance of dial-up internet each night). Maybe because it’s a genuinely great album.  Unfortunately, I’ve not been as impressed with Dido’s other offerings. How does ‘Still on My Mind’ fair?

‘Hurricanes’ is the opening track of the album. It begins with Dido’s usual lyrics: waking up, being by someone’s side, etc, etc. The song is about facing obstacles in love, and she delivers this in her soft, bare vocals. However, it does develop into a contrasting powerful synth number, with a nod to trip hop, illustrating the turbulence she is singing about (she also gently wails ‘hurricanes’ at this point, which kind of gives it away). The music suddenly quietens, allowing Dido to take the main stage again. She’s weathered the storm (for now)! Hurray! All in all, it’s a pretty good opening track. It’s the type of song that will be used for an advert or a dramatic TV moment. So far, so good.

Things take a downwards turn at ‘Give You Up’, which is Dido’s first single from the album. The song is simple and stripped back. The atmospheric backing vocals slightly lift this break-up song; but not enough.  It’s dull. It leaves me feeling disconnected.

‘Hell After This’ is a darker pop song, a much moodier affair. It does venture into new musical lands, and offers something different in comparison to the rest of the album. The abrupt beats and swift tune suggest the song should be overflowing with attitude, however the vocals mean it’s distinctly lacking in swagger.

Dido has found a fail-safe, award-winning formula which she generally sticks to: subdued vocals over acoustic guitar or Cafe Del Mar background music. This worked well for her debut, but four albums later it’s starting to get tiresome. I’ve never experienced déjà vu like it.

‘Take You Home’ has a solid beat. You can hear the influence of her brother, Faithless’s Rollo. But it just feels like an anti-climax. It sounds like it should go on to something more powerful than it actually does, and I’m left wanting more. Yet it’s still one of the stronger tracks on the album.

The three standout tracks for me are ‘Hurricanes’, ‘Take You Home’ and ‘Still on My Mind’. The rest of the album left me feeling lukewarm. In ‘Walking By’, Dido sings ‘I wish I’d never met you’, echoing my thoughts regarding 75% of the album.

I enjoyed Dido’s laid-back vocals on ‘No Angel’. I really believed that she wouldn’t go, sleep, or breathe until they were resting there with her. You could hear the yearning in her voice, even if it was a subtle shift. But on a whole, Dido’s new album just sounds so sedated.  I don’t expect her to break out into wavering, bold, Adele warbles. But I want more from her!

The album is like that poorly fitting, peach-coloured, v-neck top that your mum purchased during her weekly food shop in Asda. Lifeless.

I’m struggling to describe the boredom I felt while listening ‘Still on My Mind’. To the point of frustration. Maybe it’s me? But there’s just so little variation. Dido has the same emotional range as Kristen Stewart in Twilight. Some may say she sounds effortless; I say empty. The closing song, ‘Have to Stay’ is supposedly about her son. It isn’t striking enough for such a meaningful subject matter. I imagine the Dido fans who have enjoyed her other albums will equally like this one, but I won’t be returning to it.

Words by Kim Fernley.

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