Her 'Life for Rent' album is selling fast at home in U.K.


June 7, 2004


Dido has been getting a lot of attention at home in the United Kingdom of late, but not for the reason you'd think.

Yes, her second album, "Life for Rent," is the fastest-selling effort by a female artist in the history of the British pop charts. But the English press is more excited about a recent declaration concerning her favorite hobby.

"I think sex is one of the greatest things in the world," the 32-year-old singer and songwriter told the London Daily Mirror in a much-repeated quote. "I just love it. It makes you happy."

A pop star who loves sex and cannily uses it to gain publicity -- stop the presses!

But the sexuality that the London-born Dido Armstrong radiates is a far cry from the tarted-up sleaze appeal of a Britney Spears or a Christina Aguilera.

Onstage before an adoring crowd at the Chicago Theatre on Saturday night, Dido was natural, unaffected, warm and earthy. She joked with winning self-deprecation about the everyday, unassuming topics of her songs.

"See You at 40" was a kiss-off to an immature boyfriend. "Hunter" was "a song about being single." "Don't Leave Home" was a tune about being addicted to an unhealthy relationship. And so on.

Dido clearly isn't the most original songwriter, nor is she a particularly brilliant lyricist. And though her voice is appealing, with its sort of just-woke-up-huskiness, she's not a virtuosic singer. She needed considerable technical enhancement to sustain the few showy drawn-out notes she tried to hit, and they still sounded screechy.

Credit the astounding success of "Life for Rent" and her 1999 debut "No Angel" (which has sold 12 million copies worldwide) to two factors: that seemingly effortless, egoless personality and sex appeal, and her effective if not completely original formula of merging simple, Jewel-like poppy folk songs (or folkie pop songs) with a churning, percolating techno groove.

Dido drew on the backing of a six-piece band, including a keyboardist, a guitarist and a bassist. But the stars of the show were drummer Alex Alexander (who played with grace and style while syncing with metronomic precision to the programmed rhythms) and percussionist Jody Linscott (a powerful performer who's as fun to watch as she is to listen to, and who's played with acts ranging from the Who and Elton John to the Pet Shop Boys).

At times, the majestic swells of Dido's music could seem bombastic, and the hushed interludes could be melodramatic. But the groove could always be relied upon to carry the day, even during the indulgent jams on "Isobel" and "Honestly O.K."

Dido saved her three best-known songs for the end of her 90-minute set: "Thank You" (a k a the song Eminem sampled to provide the hook in "Stan"), "Sand in My Shoes" and the killer single "White Flag." But it was a testament to the strength of her formula -- and her personality -- that every tune sounded as solid as the hits her fans had come to hear.

Opening the show was the solo acoustic act Jonathan Rice, who alternated between overly earnest and too-obvious political anthems, and too-earnest and overly obvious love songs.