MOMENTOUS MONDAYS: INFLUENTIAL ARTISTS OF ALL TIME – WEEK 57: DIDO

I’m 56 blog posts in, through my writing of the main ‘top 100 influential artists’ list, and I’ve started to wonder and ponder a few things. There’s actually been more times than I can count that I’ve caught myself wondering why I’m even writing this blog series in the first place. Sure you can read my introduction blog here, but what I will say is this- that sometimes the mundaneness of it all, the routine day-in-day-out writing of this blog series, can sometimes become disillusioning, disheartening, and maybe even downright confusing as to why I’ve carved up a year plus, to discuss artists who are influential in some shape or form…or am I just writing about the popular ones? 56 blogs in (and a few instances where I’ve had 1-2 months break), and I’ve understood this- that there is no pressure to make these blogs longer, more sophisticated, more introspective and nuanced, more ‘wordy’ and more ‘interesting’. Because more often than not, blogs are meant to be short and sweet, and I’ve turned them into something that I know I myself wouldn’t necessarily read in one sitting, if I were to read it back to myself again, upon reflection and review. Nevertheless, in light of my very own conscious decisions to shorten my blogs, I will say this- that from taking a break in June from blogging (and instead becoming more heavily investing in watching the news and keeping up to date with current affairs), I’ve become much more rejuvenated and more enthusiastic than ever, to tackle the next 44 blogs about artists I still firmly believe have crafted their own musical careers as being one of influence to people who listen. Sure, I acknowledge that my last 56 blogs, in a holistic sense, have been ‘easier’ artists to discuss, unveil and unpack, but that doesn’t mean that I’m not excited for music that is to come- artists like John Mayer, David Bowie, PINK, Taylor Swift, Robbie Williams, Coldplay and Spice Girls, are just some of the many, many artists to come in this series- artists that have shaped music in the past, and continue to do so even now…but what about the forgotten artist; the artist that was great once upon a time, came out with such a blaze and a big album (or two), and then faded into oblivion, according to the media and through popular opinion? What happens then? Does being influential mean throughout a whole career, or just a part of it? Can an artist have a one album wonder (or in this particular artist’s case- two very big albums, and then other albums released that pale in comparison), and still be regarded as one of music’s most impactful and influential in modern music history? Maybe.

Dido Florian Cloud de Bounevialle O’Malley Armstrong (or known professionally as Dido) is such an artist- in which her first 2 albums No Angel in 1999, and Life For Rent in 2003, were huge sales-wise at the time of release, and then after that…nothing much. 5 albums later, in 2020, we see an artist who has made a powerful mark, not only on British music during the late 1990s/early 2000s, but an imprint on music full-stop- dare I say that upon hearing her music and listening to her songs from the 1990s/2000s era, that she was the Adele before Adele was? There, I said it. Dido was Adele before Adele was. Regardless of your opinion of that statement that I just said, one cannot deny the impact that Dido had at the turn of the century (from the 1990s to the 2000s), and even though currently right now, she isn’t as popular as what she once was, she nevertheless created a space that allowed vulnerable songwriting to take place. Whether it has been Adele that has come after her and has been inspired by her craft, or another artist; Dido’s work has been such, where it had been synonymous with music culture around that particular time period. Fusing together the genres of EDM and pop music, Dido’s knack for delivering songs that have a deep story to tell, rather than just a danceable beat, is something that I’ve always admired about her. This is an artist that changed and revolutionised British music way back in the day, and with a little help from Eminem, became a household name in a time where females in British music was as much needed as it was craved by people who wanted something different. Dido was different- a lot of her music, even now, is mellow and folks-y. With her genre of music at the moment being described as somewhere between electropop, trip-hop and folktronica, Dido’s heart for her music has always been for people to connect to it- which is certainly the case with her discography thus far!

‘…that’s going back 25 years [changes in music]. I’m basically old. I mean, it’s changed hugely, but, then I think in some ways that the same rules apply in that people respond to … I know that I still just really respond to a voice I love singing a song I love. To me, that’s still so much of what music is about. It doesn’t really matter what era that came from. You just get those moments where you’re like, “Oh, I love that.” Like when you hear Adele sing, and you’re like, “Oh, wow.” Obviously, the way we can do music has changed. It’s changed in the making of it. We were laughing because I found all these old cassettes of mine the other day with all these old demos on them. And it was just taking so long to go through them. And I was remembering when I was trying to find the order of the songs on No Angel. I had like 15 different cassettes with different orders, and I would listen to them all separately. It’s funny you just forget how you even managed with that sort of technology. When I was first doing this, it felt very special when I would be in a country on the other side of the world, and I would hear my songs or somebody would sing one of my songs or somebody would come up to me. It was amazing because it felt like, “Wow, how did they hear it?” But I also love now how music can translate so quickly everywhere. And I love the communication with people. In the past, I would only really have met fans at the show. After every show, we would sit out in the foyer and sign CDs and talk to people. And that was great, but it’s really lovely to be able to communicate with people in a different way, as well, online. I love the freedom of now. I love that I can write a song tonight and put it out tomorrow. That’s very exciting to me. So, I’m quite enjoying the change, but I’ve always been someone who quite likes change. I’ve never had a problem with it. But it is cool because it does challenge you to be more, “How can I make this really fun?” And I think right now what I’m feeling is that music is actually really fun, and that the industry is really fun. I like that fans seem to get to decide as opposed to it all being in the hands of radio or the record company. Now people can decide which songs they like, and I think there’s something really great about that…’

Dido’s music has always been hopeful yet challenging, longing, yet also possessive, encouraging, but in the same breath depressing…you see what I mean? From an objective standpoint we know for a fact that Dido’s presence in the music industry has been one of stardom, chart-topping singles, and melodies that demand more than one listen for whomever hears it, to full grasp and understand what is being said. Dido’s place within the confines of British music cannot be denied, and before anyone had even heard of Adele, Dido was the it thing. Yet as I have been hearing her music over the last few days or so, I can’t help but think of her music as downright underwhelming, and I know I can be ruffling some feathers if I do say this, but nevertheless, I will say this anyway. Dido’s music, just like how Evanescence’s was, way back in September 2019, has altered my mood in a way that I don’t like…you know how when you immerse yourself into a certain style of music (or a particular artist), you take on the mood that the songs embody? A lot of Evanescence’s music when I was hearing it, constituted angst and hopelessness, and for a period of time during September last year, that’s how I felt, which wasn’t great. Apart from a few standout songs in all of Evanescence’s discography (‘Bring Me To Life’, ‘Going Under’, ‘Tourniquet’, ‘My Heart is Broken’, ‘What You Want’); the rest felt a little dark for me. And as I heard Dido throughout the week, I felt a similar thing in my own spirit about the collection of songs by her as well…not that each of the songs unveiled to us were totally depressing, but holistically, Dido the artist was lacking a little hope and joy that has flooded a lot of the music I’ve heard in the past. And coming into hearing this artist, from the back of one of the most joyful and passionate singer-songwriters I’ve heard in quite some time (Colbie Caillat), it was hard to get into Dido and her music, period. Nothing against her or her place here in this top 100 influential list, but rather, as I’ve continued to her this style of music, I’ve found that I’m not necessarily the target audience for this style of songs and melodies.

Maybe it’s just me, but sometimes I connect with different styles of music more than others. And it’s just natural, there will be music that you are drawn to for whatever reason, and there will be other music, that no matter how hard you try to enjoy or even like it, something doesn’t click. It can be the music, the lyrics, the overall atmosphere of the songs in general, but for whatever reason, the music in question just doesn’t tug at your heart. It just doesn’t. And that’s ok. Considering the mammoth amount of music that I have delved into this past 1 year and a half, and the amount of music I will listen to as I journey on this blog post series that has opened my eyes to music that I didn’t know I could love and enjoy; there is bound to be music that I don’t really like. And sad to say, Dido is one of these artists. There, I said it. As much as I understand and fully support this English musician, and her place in music history and society; Dido as a whole didn’t impact me as much as I thought it did. I found myself throughout the week constantly needing a break from listening to this artist- because the music was too electronic, because the lyrics were too moody, broody and contemplative, just because for me, I knew from listening to songs called ‘Thank You’, ‘Here With Me’, ‘Life For Rent’ and ‘White Flag’, that this artist was going to be such that the music wouldn’t be as lively, heartfelt and dare I say relevant to my own life at the moment.

So if I wasn’t the target audience, why am I here writing about Dido, and stating that she is very much needed in the society of today, or that she is indeed influential in her craft and creating music that people (aside from myself) can be impacted with, when she hasn’t even impacted me to that point yet? I mean, what I’m writing from here on end can be considered as mere folly or supposition, of speculation and assumption, because if a connection didn’t happen between myself and the music (as it has done countless times before in the past), then who am I to say that this music is influential- can the music impact countless of other lives, if my own life isn’t changed that drastically in the process? Simply put- a wholehearted and resounding yes. Because whether or not it alters my life, and whether or not I enjoy or even like the music at the end of the day, doesn’t change the fact that this artist is still influential. That is why there are plenty of genres of music to enjoy- not every music style will connect with the soul of yours, and that is perfectly fine. For me, I can see the appeal and the buzz around Dido’s first 2 albums as being very valid, and with songs like ‘Here With Me’, ‘Thank You’, ‘Hunter’, ‘White Flag’, ‘Life For Rent’, ‘Don’t Leave Home’ and ‘Sand in My Shoes’ coming from the 1990s/2000s era; Dido’s passion in these songs can be very much evident. But for me, as much as I can see the impact these songs have had on other people’s lives (through looking at comments on youtube for these songs), I wasn’t connecting to them as much as I could’ve hoped I would’ve (as I have in the past for other artists I’ve written about for my blog series over the year). And to be very, perfectly, heartfelt and honest about Dido, I wasn’t enjoying listening to her in preparation for this blog post. It wasn’t a time where I was eagerly anticipating, because always when I’d hear the music, I’d start to worry and be like- ‘how can I write about this song and say that it impacts my own life when really, in fact, it doesn’t’. Maybe because I had written about more joyful female artists recently, from Natalie Imbruglia, Colbie Caillat, Rebecca St. James and Amy Grant, to Alicia Keys, Sheryl Crow, Tina Arena and Mandy Moore- and I was comparing the broody and moody Dido to these aforementioned artists- which I shouldn’t have done. If I had listened to Dido prior, it may have been a little better. Nevertheless, here I am, basically done with Dido and her music, for the time being, writing a post about why she is considered relevant and influential in not only the time period of the 1990s/2000s, not only in EDM and pop, but in all of music, period.

The songs themselves from an objective standpoint are good, there’s no denying that. ‘Here With Me’, Dido’s first single ever, was included in the soundtrack to the 1999 TV show Roswell, and was a track that showed us a persona, giddy from the effects of an initial young love, wanting to make such a feeling last, all the while acknowledging that because of the other person, they can’t breathe, and be (figuratively) until the other person is in their presence. ‘Hunter’, a standout song also on Dido’s first album No Angel, depicts a persona in a relationship, but wanting to be a free spirit again- a reminder that relationships really need to be thought-out and right for both involved, otherwise you get someone who is resentful of the other, or even feeling hurt, trapped and controlled, hence feelings arisen in the song ‘Hunter’ itself. ‘I’m No Angel’, the title track on the 1999 album, speaks of how the persona (maybe Dido herself) deduces that she is no angel, that she has demons and is imperfect like the rest of us, and that hopefully, this song gives us reassurance to not be ‘perfect’ either; while ‘Thank You’ (a track that was sampled in Eminem’s big radio hit ‘Stan’), Dido’s favourite song on No Angel, is an ode to Dido’s boyfriend at the time, and declaring from the outset, that ‘…I want to thank you for giving me the best day of my life, oh just to be with you is having the best day of my life…’

Dido isn’t afraid to speak out and talk about heavy issues and topics, mostly surrounding love, but as we move into her later albums, topics like drug addiction (Don’t Leave Home), love and loss (White Flag), realising that life isn’t really our own to keep and to hold forever (Life for Rent), and trying to recreate a holiday feeling at home through the mundaneness of life (Sand in My Shoes), are brought to the fore. And maybe that was part of the reason why I wasn’t enjoying much of Dido’s discography as a whole- it’s all heavy. It’s all emotive, and very dark in some places. And maybe that’s ok in order to reach people where they’re at. But for songs to sing about questions again and again, and there’s no room for answers to take place, seems a little depressing in my own head. I’ve come off a week and a bit of listening to Dido, virtually every day in preparation for this, and I’ve come to this conclusion. I enjoy happy music. I enjoy music that yes, it challenges, and yes, it does deliver dark material, but at the end of the day, music that I connect to the most is when the artist reminds us all that through this darkness, we have hope on the other side, through either friends, family and other close relatives, or if you are of faith, the creator of the universe Himself coming alongside us to give us comfort and hope in the difficulties and trials that we face. For such and artist as Dido, the hope bit was a little lacking if I were to admit, honestly.

Dido’s music, especially a lot of her heavy-themed music came from her first couple of albums, No Angel and Life For Rent. But in and of themselves and in their own right, they’re good songs. Nothing against them. But for me, I’ve always felt that for songs to have an impact, they need to stand out. It needs something to say in the sea of sameness. For the songs by Dido, much of her discography deals with themes that an average listener on the street may not know about. And that’s cool. But if a fair deal of the songs speaks on heavy things, the listener can enjoy the songs, but also be lost in the depressive nature of them, too.  Feeling as though they are also taking on the feelings in the song as they hear them; my majority of listening for this blog post, came with a sense of weariness and dare I say, sadness, that such a discography exists that can and does and should allow people to hear and get in touch with themselves, but hardly offers a way out of these situations and circumstances. Dido’s music is good- their later three albums not as engaging as the first two though; but only if you listen to her music, in conjunction with another artist, say someone like Colbie Caillat or Tina Arena; artists that have more of a hopeful factor compared to this British native.

Though I myself may not be fully there yet with regards to me enjoying music like this (super honest, and maybe even super depressive), I can still say in my assertion, that Dido has made her mark on pop and EDM and maybe even British music, as with other British musicians in history, from Ed Sheeran, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Adele, Phil Collins and Robbie Williams, to Coldplay, One Direction, Queen, The Police, U2 and David Bowie; to name a few. Honesty used to be shied away from, in pop music; but with artists like Ed Sheeran, Dido, The Corrs, Phil Collins and U2 showing us that to be real and honest in songs is what attracts people to them, we are met with music that can touch the soul and reunite people no matter what area of life they are in at the moment. While my experience of hearing Dido was one of lack-of-connecting (not because of the songs themselves, but because I didn’t really have many shared experiences with her, nor did I feel very hopeful when hearing her music) – I can still say she is influential in her craft- because her music will mean something to someone. Dido writes from the heart, even if it is music that doesn’t necessarily resonate with myself, or have happy endings- with a song like ‘Don’t Leave Home’, that speaks about the crippling effects of drug addiction, then happy endings aren’t always the case for Dido.

If Dido has the ability to bring people together who have buried their feelings deep inside, only for them to come out upon hearing such music, and for honesty and transparency no matter how ugly to transpire, then she has served her purpose in these songs and her discography. While in 2020, her music is all but forgotten, Dido still has a presence about her. Aside from her first two albums, as well as a handful of other radio singles- ‘Don’t Believe in Love’, ‘Everything to Lose’, ‘Let Us Move On’, ‘No Freedom’, ‘Stan’, ‘Still On My Mind’, ‘Have to Stay’ and ‘What Am I Doing Here’ (to name a few); Dido’s songs unfortunately have slipped by the radar, for whatever reason. And even though I still haven’t connected to her songs as I know I could’ve, had I not placed any preconceived ideas on the music, I do know now that Dido’s music, if given another chance, could’ve turned out a little more positively to me than where it stands right now. Nevertheless, I’ve had this realisation after hearing not only Dido’s music this year, but Evanescence’s last year too- maybe Dido wasn’t meant to write hopeful music- leave it for artists and bands like Ed Sheeran, U2 or Phil Collins. Maybe all Dido was called to undertake and accomplish was to write honest music, and to change the world that way. Despite only 5 albums (the first two in 1999 and 2003 respectively, and then in 2008, 2013 and 2019); Dido still has been around music for more than 20 years, delivering her albums, as well as a plethora of guest vocals on other artist’s records, of which can be viewed here. And maybe, just maybe, the messages and motifs, themes and revelations expounded upon this music by Dido, can still be applied today, where sadly, Dido’s songs (her later three albums especially) are all unfortunately traded in for the vapid music of today- from artists like Miley Cyrus and Katy Perry, to Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande, to name a few.

NOTE: the ‘Stan’ video above is littered with expletives- I suggest you read the lyrics first before viewing the video. Viewer discretion is definitely advised!!

‘…The big thing that happened in the last six years was I had my son. So that was what kept me not out and about for quite a while. I just wanted to hang out with him, and we’ve just been having an amazing time. It is a very simple write what you feel song. I really didn’t want to write about having kids. I was quite adamant that I’m not writing a song about having children, partly because what I write about tends to be little moments of conflict and I just felt like, “Well, that’s not interesting to write about. I just love him.” But then, I did sit down one day and write this song [Have to Stay]. I didn’t really intend for anyone to hear it; it was just a sort of little moment of personal thinking about unconditional love really, and then it sort of opened the floodgates because it suddenly made writing really simple again. It was just like, you write the things that are important, what you feel and you put it down, you sing it and then you’ve done it…’

Does Dido make the list for you all when you write your own ‘Best Influential Artists of All Time’ list? Is there any song that has impacted you on your journey through life thus far? Has this pop/EDM artist delivered music that can transcend walks of life and maybe even walks of religion as well? Has there been some songs that have spoken to you about yourself in the process (aside from songs like ‘White Flag’, ‘Here With Me’, ‘Thank You’ and ‘Stan’)? Let us know in the comments. Till next time!

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