Did I say some stuff about pop songs and their disposable plasticity? Did I allude to ‘real’ music being played on guitars by blokes with beards and skinny jeans? I do hope not.
Chandelier by Sia is a Trojan Horse of high art disguised as top 40 pop. Sure she’s not exactly Ariana Grande. Sia has a checkered history of making Acid Jazz in the 90’s with Zero Seven then making huge pop powerhouses with Calvin Harris, or is it David Guetta? Or maybe Dangermouse featuring Pitbull? I don’t know. I’m so far out of my element at this point I can only tell you that I see something in Sia that I also see in Paloma Faith and Bjork. Behind choreography and stylists and big production numbers there lies a true artistry. A Francis Bacon type artistry.
Sia’s song Chandelier is a heartbreaking tale of alcoholism and desperation smothered in dependency, but she hid that fact in plain sight with a stunning video (performance art really is the highest form of self expression that I will never fully understand) and massive pop production values. That kid dancing in the video has the regulation Sia wig on. Which in itself is a comment on fame and image and all that stuff ‘not’ being the goal.
“Party girls don’t get hurt, can’t feel anything, when will I learn? I push it down, I push it down”
I’ve never been a ‘party girl’ but I can relate. As a person heavily relied on to bring the funny and entertain in the past when all I wanted was to be doing a Ruarri Joseph (watch the skies SteveForTheDeaf Time Paradox Fans, that particular BadWolf will howl quite soon) I saw (or heard) something in the lyrics of Chandelier which could have been a diva moment were I not a fat man in his own car on long commute at the time.
“I’m the one “for a good time call”, phone’s blowin’ up, ringin’ my doorbell, I feel the love, feel the love”
Sia has hidden behind caricature wigs when doing promo (I mean literally it’s all hair and bows and you can’t see her face) and she’s called her albums things like This Is Acting or Some People Have Real Problems. If there is a mainstream pop hit I hear in the 21st century and I think to myself ‘There’s something to that’ it’s a 50/50 chance it was Sia who wrote it.
Rihanna, Beyonce, J-Lo, Katy, XTina, Kelly, The other Kelly, Jessie J, My Great Aunt Gertie. Sia has written for the lot. I don’t have a problem with people bringing in hired guns to make a pop song. If you’re a hair metal fan you cannot pretend Desmond Child didn’t do the same for most of your genres biggest acts. She’s like a Linda Perry or Max Martin with the amount of megastars she’s written for.
She’s got a clever way of swerving the stage lights as much as possible. She is on record as regarding fame as a corrosive force. Something that she is not willing to let trample her life. So a clever image to hide behind, ducking out of standard lip sync in videos to make way for performance artists, film stars, animation etc, but when it’s unavoidable. When the bizness comes a calling and she’s required to stand in front of her industry and sing live. Well, that’s where the bizarre outfits and the do act like armour.
“Help me, I’m holding on for dear life, won’t look down won’t open my eyes, keep my glass full until morning light, ’cause I’m just holding on for tonight, on for tonight”
I’ve also posted an awards show performance of Courage To Change below. Another song I really rate as pure pop with something to say to me about my life. It’s a show stealing turn, but you could walk past Sia in the street the following morning and not recognise her.
The story goes after more than a decade of hard road dog life and moderate success Sia turned her back on being a gigging musician and wanted to settle into a purely behind the scenes role as a writer. However, when collaborating with your EDM producers and hitmakers her demos would find their way onto the final recordings without The Bizness necessarily gaining Sia’s release sign off. The break through hit Titanium was not supposed to feature her voice, just her writing credit. Bizness is business though so once the CD’s are pressed and the promo started you kinda have very little say what comes next.
“Sun is up, I’m a mess, gotta get out now, gotta run from this, here comes the shame, here comes the shame”
Such is the way with fame, agents, creatives and show that Sia’s protestations at being front and center were taken as an act. A ‘no means yes’ if you like. ‘She doesn’t really mean that’. Diva behaviour surely. So it happened again. This time with Flo Rida (not one of my Great Aunt’s mates, that’s Florence Ryder). Now she was the voice of Titanium people wanted her credit on the tracks as much as her voice. So she is faced with a choice. Be the singer and find a way to handle the fame or lose the momentum for this thing you spent years chasing then turned your back on.
It appears to me Sia has cracked the code. She makes great pop records, she writes for mega stars and she elevates the art form. All while being able to go to the shops unrecognised. What a total winner.