As much as Dido”s three previous studio albums have been about her dreamy, ethereal voice, her projects have also been about marrying her vocals to myriad beats.
On “Girl Who Got Away,” out Tuesday (26), she uses the same basic palette but widens the parameters with largely winning results.
The album opens with “No Freedom,” an acoustic guitar-based, reggae tinged song, but it”s not long before all manner of beats and electronic music are blending in with the strong melodies.
For her first album in nearly five years, she paired with writers/producers Brian Eno, Jeff Bhasker, Rick Nowels, Greg Kurstin and her most frequent collaborator, her brother Rollo Armstrong. Under a less sure hand, so many cooks might threaten to create a disjointed effort, but, here, it merely serves to provide the many different flavors of Dido.
On the title track, she”s the girl who got away from her career temporarily- she disappeared to have a baby-but who also gets away with having a happy life: “the lover who really loved, the dancer who danced to the last song…” That happiness spills over again on the lovely spare “Sitting on The Roof Of The World” as Dido looks back on her musical journey with gratitude that she slipped through the door of success while there was still an opening, and yet she”s still able to return home.
One of the highlights is the mantra-like “Let Us Move On” featuring Kendrick Lamar. Unlike so many songs with a rap breakdown that seemingly has no connection to the tune of origin, Lamar”s portion fits in with the overall calm chill of the song and there”s a potency in the juxtaposition of his gruffness with her understated elegance.
For all the joy many of the track profess, “Girl” has many moods, some of them dark. Dido”s beatific voice lets her deliver harsh lyrics with such lilting precision that you don”t even feel the knife go in, such as on “End Of Night,” when she sings, “I feel nothing when you cry/ I hear nothing/ see no need to reply, I can smile then and turn away.”
Similarly “Blackbird” seems like upbeat tune that opens with a sunny, engaging tape-manipulated stutter step, but the words tell a different story: “Why do I bring you love, when all you give me back is pain?…There”s a blackbird in my chest all aflutter, and all caged in… wanting to break free with the wolves in my head,” Dido sings.
With Dido”s languid vocals, nothing ever feels rushed or particularly urgent, yet there”s nothing complacent about any of the work here. The airiness of her voice provides the perfect complement to the beats. While it”s easy to let her voice just glide over you like an incoming fog, those who dive deeper will find plenty lurking under the surface on “Girl.”