While on a university gap year, Australian singer and songwriter Sia, was given her first break by a DJ listening to her in an Italian karaoke bar. She sang Bill Withers’ ‘Lean on Me’. In 1997 she released her first solo album, ‘OnlySee’, from a garage in Adelaide. Since then, she has released an impressive amount of singles and albums, and gained worldwide recognition, not least for her iconic blonde bob.
Prolific also as a songwriter, in 2013 alone, she crafted hit songs for the likes of Rihanna (‘Diamonds’), Katy Perry (‘Double Rainbow’), Britney Spears (‘Perfume’), and Beyoncé (‘Pretty Hurts’), as well as working with Celine Dion and Kylie Minogue among others.
On July 7th, Sia will release her next solo album, ‘1000 Forms of Fear’, via RCA/Monkey Puzzle Records. Lead single, ‘Chandelier’ proceeds it at the end of June.
The video to accompany ‘Chandelier’ has exploded online, racking up several million views since it went live. Directed by Sia and Daniel Askill, the video stars Maddie Zeigler, an 11 year old dancer from the Lifetime Television show ‘Dance Moms’. Donning nothing but a skin-tone leotard and a blonde bob, she performs a hypnotic modern dance interpretation of the song, in an impressively mature performance far beyond her years.
Dancing in a sparsely furnished apartment, the stripped back approach to the aesthetics of the set and costume allows viewers to concentrate on the movement itself and, of course, the soundtrack. And that’s all that’s needed. It’s honest and vulnerable, not hiding behind anything fancy. The illusion of nakedness and the juxtaposition of the dancer’s age against the maturity of her performance suggests an inward insecurity, an uncertainty. But what woman doesn’t frequently feel like the young, naive girl she used to be?
The track itself is equally stunning, and proves that Sia, with a solo career that began 15 years ago, is still modern and contemporary. It’s hard-hitting and provocative, packed full of passionate emotion. The lyrics pertain to the bittersweet party life; using the lifestyle to cover your hurt, wearing a clown’s smile, merely playing a part to cover-up the truth. She sings “Party girls don’t get hurt / Can’t feel anything, when will I learn
/ I push it down, push it down”.
In the 1990s, Sia’s boyfriend, Dan, was killed in a traffic accident in London. At the time of the incident, Sia was on route to join him before they set off on a world trip. Speaking to The Sunday Times’ Lisa Verrico in 2007, Sia recalled “We were all devastated, so we got shit-faced on drugs and Special Brew. Unfortunately, that bender lasted six years for me.”
In ‘Chandelier’, she goes on to sing “Sun is up, I’m a mess / Gotta get out now, gotta run from this
/ Here comes the shame, here comes the shame.” While the track may be a reflection of the past for Sia, it couldn’t be more relevant for today’s audience. With more and more women binge drinking and partying hard, it’s a song that will speak to the hearts of many. I’m pretty sure that Sia has done it once again, with a beautiful track full of meaning.