Diddley Dido: The publicity-shy pop star is back
Surely she is the strangest pop star of them all: a publicity averse chart-topper, a dinner-party staple who owes a fair chunk of her fame to notorious rapper Eminem, a middle of the road icon with more edge than a festival full of rowdy rockers.
With the release this month of her greatest hits collection, Dido Florian Cloud de Bounevialle O'Malley Armstrong's status as one of the major popular talents of her era is confirmed. She has sold over 30 million albums and helped usher in a new sort of chart music -- sophisticated, demure, cooly introspective on the outside yet trembling with emotion just beneath the surface. If she was a newcomer today people would surely herald her as the anti-Miley Cyrus -- a twinkly starlet with a rare appreciation of the power of mystery.
Of all the contradictions swirling around Dido the most curious arguably relates to her sense of identity. Though raised in middle-class London and, in many ways, the quintessentially buttoned-down Briton, Dido has a deep relationship with Ireland. Through her career, her passion for Ireland has emerged in the oddest ways. On her 2007 album Safe Trip Home, Dido quotes Republican drinking dirge 'The Men Behind The Wire', pitching the 'men in armoured cars and tanks and guns ... ' refrain into a sophisticated ballad about nationality and rebellion. To Irish ears, the nuance was obvious -- Dido was offering commentary on rebel songs and their quixotic relationship with the real world.
However, in middle England -- always ready to misunderstand where Ireland is involved -- she was ... well crucified is probably too strong a term, but the media certainly had the hammers, nails and plywood out. She survived by doing the smartest thing possible in such a situation -- saying absolutely nothing (the same strategy that got Kate Moss off the hook after she was accused of taking drugs in 2005). Were it anyone else, this may have smacked of running for cover. Dido, however, is famously reclusive, with an instinctive understanding that it is difficult to be a target if people are not used to seeing you in the public sphere.
Having had the good fortune to stumble into the big time when people actually paid for records, Dido became a multi-millionaire. In keeping with her down-tempo public persona, however, she is low-key about her wealth. Married to a writer and with a two-year-old son, she lives a life of suburban normality in the Islington suburb where she was brought up.
In her career, too, she has declined to abide by convention. In February, she put out her first record in five years -- she'd taken time away to have a baby and enroll at university. With her greatest hits, meanwhile, her record contract with Columbia is at an end.
Whatever else happens, one thing is certain: Dido will remain a pop star on her own terms. "I've always felt with critics, often they haven't really listened," she once said. "It goes over my head. I'm only bothered if I feel like they've listened and they have a point -- which I don't feel about the MOR tag at all. So my reply to that always used to be 'just crank it up'. Turn it up and you will actually hear what I'm doing."