Guilt, loss, frustration, oh my! Rather than maintaining a facade of perfection, British singer-songwriter dodie, formally known as Dorothy Clark, embraces vulnerability in her third EP, “Human.” Though dodie’s previous EPs, “Intertwined” and “You,” have also addressed issues of fame, sexuality and mental health, “Human” reaches a level of depth and intensity previously unattained, creating her most comprehensive record to date.
The album’s opening track, “Arms Unfolding,” is executed solely through dodie’s vocals layered over a sustained single note. The atmospheric composition of the song evokes saccharine melodies similar to those of dodie’s previous EPs, yet the the record’s lyricism eases us into her shift in subject matter. The motif of lost love introduces the authenticity exhibited throughout the record.
Over the past eight years, dodie has amassed a YouTube following of over 1.7 million subscribers. Abstract discussions of fame evoke archetypal images of happiness derived from sources such as wealth or special treatment. “Not What I Meant,” featuring fellow British singer-songwriter Lewis Watson, highlights the personal struggles dodie has faced during her rise to internet fame.
Watson’s and dodie’s voices blend beautifully over the modern string accompaniment, creating an upbeat indie ballad despite the negativity of the lyrics. The song’s narrative is inspired by Dom Fera’s short film “Content,” which discusses “the need for validation in the digital world.” Powerfully crafted lyrics like “How am I meant to stay on track / When each hand I shake will pull me back?” underscore the unhealthy competition among internet stars who overwork themselves and fabricate artificial friendships in hopes of raising their viewer count.
Rather than aiming for perfection, dodie explicitly sets her flaws on display. In “Monster,” she vividly delineates the thoughts occupying her mind as she stares in the eyes of someone who hates her.
The upbeat and anthemic sound of the song initially seems to conflict with its content; however, the intricacy found within the fusion of classic percussion and modern electronic elements parallels that of the lyrics. “We’re both guilty of black and white thinking” diminishes the complexity of an individual, contrasting the EP’s title track, which conversely places an emphasis on knowing someone even better than they know themselves.
Featuring Scottish alternative musician Tom Walker, “Human” seamlessly unifies the vocals with the gentle string arrangement composing an undeniably gorgeous, yet haunting, piece. The limited lyrics in this song coerce listeners into devoting more attention to each line. “I want to give you your grin” deceivingly disguises the track as a heartfelt admission; however, the first word in “paint me in trust” reveals a darker reality. Furthermore, despite its scarcity, the visual elements derived from lines like “unzip your skin and let me have a see” are incredibly powerful.
Following the leading tracks, dodie also includes remastered versions of old songs. “She,” dodie’s first song to hit a million views on YouTube, was first uploaded in 2014. “She” grapples with a society that is unwilling to accept any form of romantic love deviating from the heteronormative standard. In this album, dodie injects a vibrant cinematic orchestration to “She,” amplifying the power of the track’s stream-of-consciousness lyricism.
“If I’m Being Honest,” the record’s longest song, exquisitely exemplifies dodie’s maturation as an artist. Tracing the perimeter of flirtation, the track is overwhelmed with emotion quickly shifting from optimism and hope to doubt and realism. Before the chorus, as dodie questions, “How did I get here? It’s all so quick, and I feel sick,” the music mimics the tumultuous energy of the lyrics. The second to last chorus gradually builds to the song’s climax, found in the bridge, paralleling the magnitude of emotion dodie felt.
The artist’s emotional journey culminates in “Burned Out.” The baroque piano and string combination in 6/8 time evoke the image of a prima ballerina rehearsing a routine until she physically breaks. “Burned Out” is dodie’s most explicit message concerning mental health. The track expresses the feeling of doing too much and still not being enough. Rather than finding comfort in the repeated strings of “they love you,” dodie encounters guilt for dealing with mental illness despite being adored by many. “Burned Out” immaculately concludes the album with its eerie authenticity.