Review: “Life For Rent” by Dido (CD, 2003)

Today’s POP RESCUE is the 2003 second album Life For Rent by Dido, but should this album have a long-term agreement to stay in your collection? Read on..

Dido - Life For Rent (2003) album

This 11 track album opens with the soft synths and strings of lead single White Flag, before the bass and beats arrive. Dido’s vocals here are soft, warm, and relaxed… but then that’s exactly what you’d expect from here. A piano and guitar strums join in, but this is a truly mellow slow song that steadily builds and swells, giving a beautifully sounding track – vocally and musically. Rick Nowels is here on keyboards and guitar as well as a co-writing credit with Dido and her brother Rollo (of Faithless). This single gave her a #2 UK hit, setting her in good stead for another hit album.

Next up is Stoned which again begins with some synths, but there’s a harder fuzzy robotic beat here too. Once it gets going, the song sounds almost like Dido’s managing a pop song with the gentler moments of Erasure in the background. It’s quite a nice song really.

Title track and third single Life For Rent follows this with Dido showing off her flawless vocals as a guitar gently strums in the intro. This song just kind of plods along, and beings to feel a little bit too X Factor-winner by the end. Whilst it gave her a #8 UK hit single, it’s plodding perhaps costing her a few chart positions.

Mary’s In India sees an acoustic guitar strumming whilst Dido’s vocals sound stronger and louder here as if it’s taken from a live recording. It sounds fairly folky musically, vocally and somewhat lyrically. At times a little gentle percussion joins in – including handclaps, and some light piano tinkles away as the song heads towards the final third.

Next up is See You When You’re 40, which has a delicious beat that steals my attention throughout whilst Dido sings over the top sounding her most like Tracey Thorn (sorry, Tracey!). The song builds up from about 1m 50s, with the arrival of piano, synths and guitars. Again, it’s just a mellow nice song…

Third single Don’t Leave Home follows, with a bleeping synth and strumming guitar sitting with Dido’s vocals on top. She sounds stronger, perhaps a little more confident in what she’s singing here. This song is perhaps the hardest (musically) song that she’s recorded here – with a slight parallel to Alanis Morrisette. The single stumbled in the UK chart, reaching #25.

Who Makes You Feel is up next, which opens with a looped sample (or so it seems, it’s uncredited in the sleeve). Dido’s delicate vocals command the music perfectly, and the beats and music fits perfectly into a pretty chilled out, slinky song. I really enjoyed this song, and I think that it would have made a great single – but might have divided her fan base as it’s different in style from her other singles.

Fourth and final single Sand In My Shoes is up next, with the sound of waves and gulls in the background as an acoustic guitar leads us into the first verse. Dido’s vocals again sound perfect against the beats, bass and over all summer-time feeling that this song just oozes. This is another co-write with Rick Nowels, and this probably goes some way to help give us a catchier pop song. Despite this, the single stalled at #29 – a chart crime!

This is followed by Do You Have A Little Time, which opens with some sad strings, which the downtempo beat and bass, and even the lyrics, seem to play on perfectly. This song is wonderfully downbeat, and this is a style that Dido’s vocals work well with.

This Land Is Mine sees tinkling piano and warm strumming guitars underline Dido’s folkier vocals. Whilst it is musically really nice, it’s not particularly memorable. It’s very soft and mellow but whilst it moves through the verses without fault, it’s just another nice sound.

What is the final song on the sleeve – See The Sun – turns out to have a hidden track at the end. However, this song opens with a growing synthscape before it gives way to bass and strings. This definitely feels like an ‘end’ song, lyrically and even just by its title. The synths swell, the acoustic guitars tenderly lead the string section through to the safety of the chorus where the bass is there to meet it. It’s a nice (false) bottom.

The album actually closes with hidden track Closer, which begins with a strumming guitar at 7m 5s. However, the wait is not particularly worth it, as it again feels like it’s another X Factor-winner type song, even if it is simply vocals, piano, and guitar.

Dido’s lead single ‘White Flag’


Over all, this album is another Dido ‘nice’ album.

There’s a few highlights here – Sand In My Shoes, Do You Have A Little Time, See You When You’re 40, and White Flag, but the rest is pretty forgettable, in the way that Dido manages to perfectly achieve. I remember the first time I heard her debut album, it ran its entirety and I hadn’t even noticed a change in the songs.

This album gave Dido a #1 album, that was certified 9x Platinum in the UK alone. Whilst it doesn’t have the frenzied appeal of debut’s Thank You hit (courtesy of Eminem’s use of it), this album continued her success with ease. The album and its lead single earned her a Grammy Nomination, a Best Album BRIT nomination in 2004, and saw her win an Ivor Novello Award. She toured extensively.

It’s a little bit more varied, but it’s subtle. If you enjoyed her first album, you’ll like this too.

Rated 3 stars! It's a nice album.
  • POP RESCUE 2015 RATING: 3 / 5
  • 2003 UK CHART PEAK: #1, certified 9x Platinum.
  • POP RESCUE COST: 50p from an RSPCA store.

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