It was an unlikely Eminem endorsement that turned the masses on to Dido’s wine bar pop in the early 2000s. As sampled by Slim Shady’s fan-goes-cray-cray parable ‘Stan’, her single ‘Thank You’ became an overnight passport to the big time and record sales in the tens of millions.
But, coinciding with the ascent of Coldplay and a new slushier stripe of stadium rock, she was soon a target for those who deemed middle-of-the-road pop inherently problematic. Being unobjectionable turned out to be the most objectionable thing Dido could do.
As with all the best pop stars, however, the singer born Dido Florian Cloud de Bounevialle O’Malley Armstrong has always seemed enormously at ease with herself as an artist, and attuned to her strengths and weaknesses. That continues to be the case as she returns with her first LP in six years.
Smooth and slowly-unfurling, Still On My Mind is, in ways both good and bad, quintessential Dido. Faithless’ Rollo Armstrong — Dido’s older brother — deploys silky production and even when the record tries to go all ravey (‘Hell After This’, ‘You Don’t Need A God’) it remains relentlessly polite.
One of the saving graces is Dido’s dreamy vocal, utilised winningly on single ‘Give You Up’. In that standard Dido register of mild melancholia the song is a polite lament — storm tossed, after a fashion, but nothing that is going to frighten the livestock.
So it continues throughout the record, which paints a portrait of a woman who has endured her occasional ups and downs (‘Hurricanes’) yet has never lost sight of what really matters in life (‘Take You Home’).
It’s mature, artfully assembled and Dido is a twinkling presence, always that bit more inscrutable than the average pop star. Agnostics are unlikely to be won over, it’s true. But those who have been holding a candle will find this an album glimmering with possibilities.