Apart from Karen O, it’s hard to find another woman as charismatic and memorable in our lifetime as Beth Ditto. But it’s also hard to argue her becoming a victim of her own sound and success, a voice so powerful that it trampled not only her own headway but perhaps the input of those around her.
That changes with Fake Sugar, and the trade-off is a more tempered Ditto than we’ve seen before. Even if it starts with a song like Fire, the mood is that of reserved blues-rock, veering into the doo-wop territory on In And Out. So far this doesn’t sound like the Beth Ditto we know, and it’s all for the better.
And when it’s measured correctly, it’s beautiful. “I get so sick and tired of feeling sick and tired,” she sings on the title song, trite lyrics balanced by a gentle gallop of a beat that doesn’t let you move an inch from it. This is the sound of Ditto harnessing her power, rising beyond being just a gimmick or a wayward voice with no conduit, and it’s a joy to watch.
Complaints? At times it’s a little too sedate, and when it rises (as on Oo La La) it doesn’t really broach the level of cool we might expect her to. But Ditto is growing up and her sound is growing with her, blossoming into a classic rock diva only slightly on the wrong side of what your dad’ll enjoy on Radio 2. This sort of Beth Ditto is still better than no Ditto at all, and the musical landscape is certainly more interesting for her presence.