For anyone wondering "Who is Sia and why is she everywhere all of a sudden?", you clearly haven't been paying enough attention. Backing singer for Jamiroquai, guest vocalist for Zero 7, a breakthrough hit with "Breathe Me" used over the final scene of Six Feet Under, with FIVE previous albums under her belt culminating with We Are Born back in 2010. From there things got a bit depressing; diagnosed with Graves disease, boyfriend killed in a freak car accident, addiction to drugs and alcohol, suicide attempts. Then, once she got her life back on track, things got a lot better…
The list of people Sia Furler hasn't written a song for is probably a shorter one, but the mega-hits she's had a hand in with Rihanna ("Diamonds"), David Guetta ("Titanium"), Flo Rida ("Wild Ones"), Beyonce ("Pretty Hurts"), Rita Ora ("Radioactive"), Eminem ("Beautiful Pain"), Britney ("Perfume") and almost countless more has pretty much made her THE top pop-scribbler at the moment.
So after all her personal hardship, followed by helping just about everyone else in the music industry rack up a chart-topper, she's decided to take centre stage again. Almost entirely produced by Lily Allen's former producing partner-in-crime Greg Kurstin, here we have an album full of Sia written tracks, which should mean that we've potentially got the best pop album of the year on our hands? Well, yes and no. It definitely contains some of the better pop songs you'll hear in 2014, but on the whole, it doesn't quite add up to the sum of its parts.
The problem begins and ends with the two songs most people will have most likely already heard. "Chandelier", the reggae-electronica fussed ode to partying too hard, is easy to sing along to – even though it sounds like Sia is destroying her own vocal chords to get that powerful chorus out – though it's a bit of a downer buzz if you're actually paying attention to the self-destructive lyrics. As such, "Chandelier" is fairly indicative of the album as a whole. Then there's "Elastic Heart", the song you might have heard on the Hunger Games: Catching Fire soundtrack, and the only song on the album with an alternative producer; EDM master Diplo. It's so cutting edge, so on trend, so unique… and sounds so little like anything else on the album. It pops up half way through, and props up your attention like nothing else before it, and nothing else that comes after it. Once it's gone, you're left longing for another just like it.
That's not to say that the rest of the album is a dud; second single "Eye Of The Needle" is a self-empowerment anthem about surviving trials and tribulations with a great scream-along chorus, "Burn The Pages" is an uplifting toe-tapper with a great scream-along chorus, "Dressed In Black" is a self-empowerment anthem about surviving trials and tribulations with a great scream-along chorus, "Fair Game" is an uplifting toe-tapper with a great scream-along chorus… Are we sensing the pattern here?
Sia, perhaps all too aware of what the public wants from her, gives the public exactly what they want… but too much of it. "Diamonds" was a great Rihanna single, but we didn't get an album full of "Diamonds", because Rihanna is too smart not to mix things up. Here, songs mix into one another too easily, all over-reliant on a heavy use of metaphor and only tiny changes in tempo from one to the next. Individually these are mostly good pop songs, but combined they make for one mostly average pop album. With "Elastic Heart" smack bang in the middle, a taster for what might have been.
THREE OUT OF FIVE