There’s little variation in No Angel's material, but its songs do their jobs diligently.
Natalie Shaw 2010
Dido's career could have easily been so very different, as she was halfway through a law degree before the call of the music industry proved lure enough for her to quit her education. Subsequently she worked with (her brother) Rollo Armstrong’s band, Faithless, but this debut solo album failed to attract widespread attention until fate intervened in the form of an Eminem single. Samples from her Thank You song featured heavily on the rapper’s 2000 international hit, Stan. The knock-on effect was one of increased sales and worldwide recognition, and No Angel went on to grace the coffee tables of millions in 2001.
Dido’s debut remains a shiny and polished effort full of comforting verse-chorus-verse structures that draw on everyday woes, none too specific so as to happily sit with the extremely casual record-buyer. We look on as Dido stalkerishly watches her lover while he sleeps on All You Want; has vivid dreams of a life without him on Here With Me; liberates herself from a pedestal on Hunter; and, on album-closer My Life, finally regains control over the situation. It's the album's bittersweet hurrah, concluding proceedings just like the consumable romantic comedy it seems to ape.
Folk-pop is the staple style, with occasional synth-plonks added to the mix to disguise its use of convenient rhyme and emphasise the fleetingly manic depression of the content. With Dido's vocals deliberately cloudy and nasal, the relationship merry-go-round of the wordplay becomes even easier to digest. Take Honestly OK, which touches on Beth Orton's folk-tronica and Faithless' trip-hop but is so apologetic that, for all its intentions, fares even beiger than its forbearers The lyrics ooze platitudes, pottering along their path of well-trodden faux-misery.
While there's little variation in No Angel's material, its songs do their jobs diligently. But that's exactly the problem – it’s all so constructed. A passive-aggressive protagonist sits neatly atop the maximum-gloss backing tracks, insipidly whimpering to someone who isn't really listening. In a parallel world, it's hard to imagine this album being listened to as anything more than background music. What we hoped for, then, was action and movement from listening to this fluid slice of MOR, evolution and innovation rather than any wallowing in the synthesised stasis it bathes in. So far, so sort of.