Single Review: Dido “Life For Rent”

Life for Rent
Album: Life for Rent
Year: 2004

In the second single from her second album,”Life for Rent,” Dido is moody and cynical as she examines her life. The innocent and idealistic Dido from “Thank You” has grown up and realized not everything goes as planned. Not many pop stars choose this personal, confessional route. It’s risky considering that she is not selling the sweetness and light which originally brought her tremendous sales. However, Dido had some substance to her already, which minimizes the risk.

The substance is in the writing. She explains the meaning of the metaphor in the first lyric (“I haven’t ever really found a place that I call home/I never stick around quite long enough to make it.”) It’s also working on both levels – literal and figurative. Literal being, she changes her home month by month. With her each month, brings new changes she has to adjust to and pay for. She confesses that she has let go of her dreams to live a quiet life by the sea. But notes sadly that there is nothing there to stop her. Hence, her life is for rent. In the chorus, she builds upon the metaphor by singing: “if my life is for rent/and I don’t learn to buy/well I deserve nothing more than I get/cos nothing I have is truly mine.” Her reference to a past romantic relationship mentioned in the first verse plays a role in the chorus, too. If she doesn’t actually take the time to get to know someone and be with them, then she doesn’t have a right to say that person is hers. In the second verse, she examines herself. She admits she doesn’t up easily (“if my heart is a shield/and I won’t let it down”) and that she doesn’t try, either. However, she knows that she’s not really living then (“Well how can I say I’m alive.”) She ends the single repeating ” cos nothing I have is truly mine.” Without any music behind the lyrics, she is hopeless and has stopped caring.

Dido, like Nelly Furtado, has improved her intrepretation of lyrics. She has taken the limitations of her voice (thin and breathy) and made them strengths. The breathiness is instead used to convey a sigh of disappointment, not taking place of an unreachable note. The thinness lets her take her time while singing the lyrics.

However, she doesn’t takes her time, which is the single’s downfall. She sings the verses too swiftly to actually convey their meaning. By rushing, she’s unintentionally cheapening the lyrics. By the chorus, she slows down and lets herself feel. However, it’s a bit too late. The tone for the song had to remain despondent throughout. In turn, the verses are choppy.

It’s almost a good song. Dido is gradually reaching her potential. But she still has a bit of work to do.

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