The 23-year-old singer-songwriter Dorothy ‘dodie’ Clark began her music career from her bedroom in 2011. Her success is credit to her music’s accessibility and her personal candour surrounding topics of mental health and sexuality. Her latest release, Human, follows her previous EPs, Intertwined (2016) and You (2018). In only 23 minutes, she creates a vocal tapestry woven with authenticity, love letters and raw vulnerability.
dodie uploaded a “secret scrapbook song” for her 1.7 million YouTube subscribers revealing the EP’s first track, ‘Arms Unfolding’, hidden word-by-word in multiple videos. The singer previously dedicated it to her “two friends who are learning to fall in love with each other again.” The sentiment of opening oneself back up to love’s trials and traumas is reinforced in the more upbeat ‘Monster’. The song is chaotic, a culmination of layered percussion alongside isolated beeps. The style foreshadows the song’s video, a surreal and kooky take on the harrowing world of modern dating.
dodie continues the conflicting themes of insecurity and growth alongside male vocalists in ‘Human’ (Tom Walker) and ‘Not What I Meant’ (Lewis Watson). Whilst the collaborations provide beautifully melding harmonies, the addition of male vocals delivers the songs’ narratives from the perspective of both genders, removing the heteronormative ‘he-loves-me-he-loves-me-not’ trope.
The tracks counter one another tactfully. ‘Human’ reflects on infatuation and dependency whilst ‘Not What I Meant’ is a sweet and soulful look at the link between conforming and success. dodie is repeatedly questioning the multiplicity of our self-portrayals, and in ‘If I’m Being Honest’, with its dramatic, orchestral feel, she asks “could you love this?”, could you love her, as she is?
The acoustic sombreness of ‘She’ offers a modernised narrative of unrequited love with a girl who “means everything” to her. The opening question “am I allowed to look at her like that?” lays a mournful foundation sustained throughout the song. Openly bisexual, dodie relays the bittersweet reality that rejection is multifaceted, and differing sexualities can complicate seemingly platonic relationships. The subtleness of pizzicato strings is secondary to dodie’s vocals, emphasising the transparency of her diary-like lyrics about the girl who “smells like lemongrass and sleep”.
The EP concludes with ‘Burned out’, a hauntingly heartbreaking admittance of defeat. The echoing variety of pronouns emphasises dodie’s detached sense of self, a girl raised online, performing to “thousands of eyes” yet only hearing “the sharp” words in response. Her lyrics are candid and empathetic – thus relatable. Nevertheless, her fans shouldn’t “build hope on something broken”, for she, like them, is “just” human.