Album: Dido

Life For Rent, Cheeky/Arista
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The Independent Culture

As difficult second albums go, there can have been few more so than this, Dido's follow-up to her 12 million-selling debut. But amazingly, despite her obvious limitations - narrow vocal range, overuse of that falsetto catch - she's managed to finesse her way to a position as the pre-eminent bedsit balladress, the Joni Mitchell, Janis Ian or Carole King of her era, if that's not stretching a point. Life for Rent is the musical equivalent of chick lit, a Bridget Jones's Diary of the trials and tribulations faced by single young women today. It's full of sharply-observed emotional commonplaces: trying to catch a man's attention ("Do You Have a Little Time?"); helping a male friend get over a break-up ("See the Sun"); realising you're not really compatible with your partner ("Stoned"); trying to establish an insular intimacy with a new partner ("Don't Leave Home"); returning home still swept away by the effects of a holiday romance ("Sand in My Shoes"). It's like music therapy, a comforting warm bath that Dido's female fanbase can slip into after a hard day at work, which will probably be loathed by their boyfriends. Two songs stand out: "Mary's in India", which finds the narrator thinly disguising her ulterior motives as she comforts a chap whose girlfriend is away; and the title track, which uses a house-hunting metaphor for one-night stands: "But 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". A massive seller; you can put your mortgage on that.