Aussie girl turned international superstar, Sia is best known for solo hits such as “Breathe Me” and more recently “Chandelier” and “Elastic Heart”, working with Zero 7 for the better part of the decade and penning a bunch of songs for artists such as Christina Aguilera, David Guetta and Rihanna’s hit “Diamonds”. Both her incredible creative songwriting capacity and her huge soaring voice have gained her a huge following all around the world.
But the faceless cover of her latest album, 1000 Forms of Fear, suggests some of the pain she has been through in recent years. After her last album in 2010, she began to struggle with the fame which conflicted with her shy personality, becoming unable to tour and taking to drugs and alcohol. After almost committing suicide, she laid low for a few years writing songs for other artists until she felt ready to re-emerge with this stunning album – an emotionally raw and powerful comeback. She’s put her past behind her, put a paper bag over her face when posing (which is an interesting message in itself), and achieved something quite extraordinary.
The album is so different to anything she’s ever done before, but then Sia has been known for reinventing herself. But even within the album the music jumps up and down, from the booming album-opener and lead single “Chandelier” (which has already gathered 25 million listens on Spotify and 49 million on Youtube, before the album is even released in most of the world), to the slow and almost meditative “Eye of the Needle”, the fast-paced and upbeat “Hostage” and the dramatic but beautiful ballad “Straight For The Knife”. The album will be classified under Pop, but it’s so much harder to categorize than that – it is almost flawless pop, sounding very contemporary but still classy with her raspy and croaky voice bringing out the full emotion on every track. I think sometimes there just needs to be a genre called “Good Music” for albums like this.
Recently she performed on the Ellen DeGeneres Show with her back to the audience, her first live performance in quite a long time. But even more amazingly, she has signed a contract with RCA that says she will not have to tour or do any press regarding the album – quite possibly a world first, and a decision she has made to help avoid another breakdown.
But with an album this good, I’m pretty sure she’s not going to lose any fans over her lack of touring. I’m happy I got to see her perform live twice, quite some years ago now back in Australia, but this album proves that success does not have to control a songwriter’s life and I’m happy to see her getting the recognition and help from the industry that she needs – maybe it’ll help other struggling musicians to find the courage to make similar decisions with their careers.
Listen to this album. Listen to it fully, from start to finish, in one go, and try to tell me it’s not amazing. You won’t be able to do it. You probably won’t be able to talk for a little while.
1000 Forms Of Fear is available worldwide from July 8, 2014 (and in some places as of today – it’s up on Spotify for those who use that).