Monday, June 22, 2015

Deconstructing Sia

 Is this a "bob" or a "weave"?

I really liked a post that I had made on Facebook back in January.  It started from a fairly benign post stating how I felt about the artist that Sia has become.  After seeing her perform singles from her new(er) hit album, 1000 Forms of Fear -2014, and hearing the tone of where she was going as an artist, it became quite clear that she’s gone from being the quirky lovable indie artist to a mainstream popular powerhouse.  Is that necessarily a bad thing?  Not inherently, no.  It is however troubling in the sense that a lot of artists do this often with long term consequences.  What sucks is, artists that had such a loyal hardcore following, by doing this tend to alienate that base.  The very people that got them to that level originally.  Since the original FB post, I’ve definitely softened my feelings, but I’m really not going to edit a lot of what I posted that night.  This is in no way meant to condemn Sia as a person, or to question her ability as a performer.  This is simply 1 dude’s thoughts on an artist that for better or worse really shaped a good chunk of my life when I discovered her.  Things to note: I really did love Sia once.  I loved her talent, her music, and her personality.  I loved going to her concerts, I loved hearing her jokes, and following her on Twitter.  I loved staking out her website for inside information about tickets and passes.  She opened me up to a whole genre of music that while I may have stumbled onto eventually, I am able to appreciate more today.  It’s the fact that I love music more, and therefore I no longer love Sia.


{Edited from a Facebook Post January 18, 2015}

Sia’s performances are just that, performances. I've seen her enough live to know that she clearly cannot handle her celebrity status now, (Not well anyway).  She actually used to live for being in front of and playing to audience. Now she hides in plain sight and choreographs her "art". It's just maddening to watch. It really feels like you losing a good friend because they get into a relationship with someone. They kind of lose themselves.  Here’s a few pictures from her solo show in NYC.  (June 26 2006)  Side note, almost exactly 9 years ago, yikes, I’m getting old.) Also note, she actually has a face! 

Sia hooked up with the group Zero 7 for their ridiculously epic 2001 debut album, Simple Things as lead singer.  Wow.  Talk about a set of pipes.  It was the first time that I had ever heard of her, and obviously the first time that I had ever heard of Zero 7.  Frankly, I thought she was black.   Seriously, listen to this:

In The Waiting Line

That album may change your life.  If it was less than $100 on vinyl it would be a no brainer.  The fact that it is so expensive screams a must have Holy Grail of record collecting.  The day I ever land Simple Things on vinyl, rest assured, there will be a week long Vinyl Monday taking one single per day.  Actually, screw it.  AmazoniTunesGooglePlay whatever your poison, download this album, like right fucking now.

This is the point where I break down a mini discography of releases either by Sia, or featuring her involvement to show progression toward 2014, along with a bonus spoken word entry.

From Sia’s 2004 album, Color The Small One, the lead track, Rewrite, was about as soulfully somber as one could get when starting off an album. Most artists try to grab you and hook you with something upbeat and defining. She kept you close with gritty soft soul.


Also from this album, you need to hear Sunday, which is my favorite, and The Bully. Overall, this a great down tempo borderline electric folk album that should be part of your collection somehow.  It’s so full of being personal, that I doubt anyone could walk away not finding some level of sympathy over.  Seriously, download this album too.

Moving backwards, toward 2002, Sia came out with a far underrated album, Healing Is Difficult. At the time, or until very recently, I thought this was as personal as she got. Turns out it is. This album is raw and blunt. You can get that from the titles alone.  Beginning with the lead track, Fear, you’ll get an immediate feeling about the direction this album is going to go.


Easily that’s the lightest track she’s ever done and it’s a commentary on crippling fears of things and confronting them. It’ very empowering actually. From there you need to listen to Drink to Get Drunk and Blow it All Away. (Particularly Haunting as fuck)

Blow it All Away

In 2001 she got noticed when she joined Zero 7. (My 2nd favorite group of all time) Who hasn’t heard Destiny? I’m sure someone hasn’t so check this out.  But then you really should listen to the whole damn album.  Oh, and Distractions also happened.  I don’t think there was song on this album that isn’t worth repeating multiple times over.  Christ.  It’s musically, perfect.


 Her debut solo album, OnlySee in 1997 was very under the radar. I didn’t get it till I heard her with Zero 7, and this blew me away. I thought she was black. Her voice overpowers every track on this album and the album as a whole is so jammed with different styles you can tell that she was young and too talented. Kind of reminds me of early coffee house jazz fusion. It’s so random, it’s good. Listen to Stories.


Hell, she could even funk too? Check out the lead track, Don’t Get Me Started to see the range of music we’re dealing with here.

Don't Get Me Started

From the same album, if you can believe that, she has a raw spoken word song that is so hard hitting it makes you wonder WTF happened. Before Adele made you feel sorry for her, before pain was a badge of honor in R&B, there was this. This was truly some deep, deep stuff.


My point here is, and I really don’t know why this eliciting such a response from me, Sia is a lot deeper than whatever it is she’s turning out for money right now. I just can’t wrap my head around how someone so humble, so personable and clearly so free, could even come close to making music so, generic.  Obviously, she’s talented as all hell.  I will never take this away from her.  She’s written some of the greatest songs for the most popular artists out now.  Everyone from Rihanna, (Diamonds), to Christina Aguilera, (You Lost Me), Beyonce, (Pretty Hurts).  This Sia’s has said in many interviews is her passion now, writing for other artists.  Fantastic!  Then why on earth 1000 Forms of Fear?  In her defense, it was reportedly to get out of her record contract.  That’s fair enough, how many artists shit out horrible albums to end crappy contracts?  But, it’s what she followed that statement up with that burns me the most.

In a July 2014 interview with Chris Connelly from Nightline, Sia came clean about why she refuses to show her face on television – including interviews.
“I don’t want to be famous or recognizable. I don’t want to be critiqued about the way that I look on the Internet.”Um, ok, then explain this:In a February 17, interview with NME Magazine written by David Renshaw, she announced a folowup to 2014’s 1000 Forms of Fear.However, the success of the album has spurred her on to make more music. "I'm super productive. I have a full album ready to go and it's much more pop," she revealed. "I'm calling it 'This Is Acting' because they are songs I was writing for other people, so I didn't go in thinking 'this is something I would say'. It's more like play-acting. It's fun."

Nothing irritates me more than an artist selling out. Sure, it’s every artists dream to make it big, but if you can’t do it on the strength of what made you famous and you have to resort to changing and dumbing down your craft to appeal to the masses, then you simply become no better than anyone else and it’s a great way to shorten a career. Just look at every other modern pop star.  This is Acting?  I bet... 

Next week, hell because this post was such a downer maybe this week, I’m back to the vinyl with an awesome pick from Stevie Ray Vaughn.

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