Alternative Pop, 2003
Dido’s follow-up to her CD No Angel will not disappoint her legions of fans that discovered her through the TV series Roswell. Life for Rent is like a musical diary of a moody, ofttimes-suicidal teenage girl as she contemplates life and love and heartbreak. With smooth production that gives the twelve tracks here (including a hidden bonus track) a caramel-coated ear candy feel, the whole experience that is Life for Rent is like reading a Dear John letter from a boyfriend while being mildly under the influence. The experience is quite surreal in a PG-13 way.
The first single White Flag is a rousing indication of what is to be expected of this CD. It’s a song about a woman determined to hold on to a love that’s broken to the bitter end, even if the boyfriend slaps a restraining order on her. Stoned is a surprisingly hard-hitting song about a bleak relationship where the happiest moments were when the couple were stoned and hence forget just how much they can’t stand each other. Don’t Leave Home seems like a love song, until examination of the words reveals that it’s a song about obsessive desperation ratcheted up a notch from that in Dido’s previous successful single Here With Me. Sand in My Shoes is another story that examines every crack in Dido’s heart after a broken relationship. If the listener hasn’t used up all her tears by now, Dido offers the razor blade when she sings about her Life for Rent, a song that captures the moods of disenchanted, disenfranchised young folks all around too well.
But, in the end, Dido opens her heart – with conditions, with reservations – to a new love in This Land Is Mine (“I’ll let you rule, so long as you know this land is mine”). It is only on the eleventh track, See the Sun, that Dido finally holds the hand of her new love and walk into the sunset, maybe happy, maybe not.
There is a similarity in production and style that plagued all the songs here, and after a while, songs then to blur together. Sometimes it also seems as if Dido is singing through her nose. Nonetheless, Dido’s songwriting is effective despite or perhaps because her audience being mainly sensitive teenage girls on the brink of adulthood. If Dido writes for these fans, she’s doing it very well. The title track captures the sense of helplessness and alienation one may feel when one is starting out as an adult all too well.
As an elementary level Lilith Fair, Dido’s Life for Rent is personal and raw in the song words despite the smooth production of the tracks, and this is why it is a very effective radio-friendly introspective CD. Maybe one day we will graduate to Liz Phair, but for now, growing up with Dido isn’t such a bad thing at all. Not when she seems to understand and is willing to share every crack in her heart with every listener of hers.