Since winning Strictly Come Dancing in 2007, Alesha Dixon seemed to be on the rise, and for a time, she was. Her 2008 album The Alesha Show is rated Platinum in the UK and its lead single, The Boy Does Nothing reached double platinum with its mambo styling and swinging beat. Then her 2010 single Drummer Boy (which for the record, we think is fantastic and inventive) failed to get past Number 15 in the charts, and the accompanying album Entertainer bombed, barely scratching 84. So now, 5 years later, we find Do It For Love; an album seemingly designed to be a comeback record, a smorgasbord of modern EDM and pop production.
A quick look at the production credits for the album see duties split fairly evenly between two duos, and writing handled largely by Dixon herself, with the exception of Top of the World, which accordingly seems out of place in the tracklist. Most of the album’s first half are produced by Alex James and Harry Sommerdahl, the former having worked with Jason Derulo and Girls’ Generation, and their tracks tend to be the strongest of the bunch, as they bring thumping UK Garage style to the songs, all of which would feel completely at home in a club.
All four of the final tracks are produced the second duo, Chris Ballard and Arno Spires, and none of them have the impact of a single track from the first half. In fact, side two is composed largely of ballads, rendering it a bit of a slog to get through, since all the pianos and soft beats tend to blur together after a while. The one notable track from the second half of the record is People Need Love, an unapologetically sappy weeper about needing to embrace the ups and downs of life, which meshes well with the beach-y guitars that run throughout.
All of the songs produced by the aforementioned James/Sommerdahl team are lots of fun, particularly singles The Way We Are and Tallest Girl. The Way We Are is lots of fun, with its Latin horns screaming over a funky UK Garage beat in the chorus. Dixon’s delivery of the line “that’s when the passion comes in” also impresses, her voice doing the sentiment justice. Tallest Girl features a synth lead that is a dead ringer for the A-Track remix of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Heads Will Roll, which carries along the vaguely silly lyrics, which are largely comprised of descriptions of feeling tall (the opening line is “Skyscrapers don’t mean a lot to me”). Both songs have that special ‘something’ that makes for a great club track though, a mixture of effortlessly catchy melodies and highly polished production.
In the lead up to the release of this album Dixon actually mentioned wanting to return to her Mis-Teeq days as an MC, which she technically does here, if only briefly. She has two rapped verses on the album by my count, in Count On You and Do It For Love. It’s unfortunate that she doesn’t break out this skill more often, because it enlivens the songs to no end, and infuses her persona with a much more natural authenticity than is found in her standard vocals, which whilst perfectly serviceable, have few really standout moments.
Ultimately, Do It For Love is a good pop record, if not a great one, and whilst it has some very catchy and inventive songs, it also has a fair bit of filler in the second half, a trend that seems to have largely recessed in recent years. It’s unfortunate that neither the album not its singles seem to be doing very well in the UK charts, with both The Way We Are and Tallest Girl failing to even get a listing. That’s the tragedy of albums designed for wide appeal like this one; they often lack the personality to actually find success, and whilst much of the album is quite good, it’s unlikely to bring Dixon back into mainstream success.