Sia | ARTIST
1000 Forms of Fear | ALBUM
RCA | LABEL
8 July 2014 | RELEASE DATE
8.0 | 10
Sia Furler was most likely set for life financially ever since she scored back-to-back hit singles with “Wild Ones” and “Titanium”, providing Flo Rida and David Guetta two of the best songs in their respective discography’s. She’s written for Beyoncé, Britney Spears, and Rihanna since, seemingly using those collaborations with Flo and Guetta as a springboard to working with the top performers in music. Then came “Chandelier”, the anthemic, great lead single of 1000 Forms of Fear, Sia’s first album in four years, and first since her Top 40 breakthrough. What could have been a quiet retreat back to writing for other artists turned into her biggest profile yet, made all the more ironic due to Sia’s refusal to be seen on national TV or her music videos. Hard to do when everyone from Seth Meyers to Ellen to Jimmy Kimmel wants a piece of what you’re selling.
Beginning the album with “Chandelier” is a bit of a double-edged sword, as the song immediately grabs your attention, compelling one to listen further. The flip side to that is the fact that nothing clicks as immediately or emphatically as “Chandelier”. It’s a good thing, then, that topping herself is not Sia’s primary goal on Fear. Because as grand and definitive as that song is, the album as a whole registers on an emotional level, largely due to those phenomenal vocals. The arrangements throughout help push the boundaries of her sound while giving her free reign to explore her vocals. “Burn the Pages” at different (and sometimes the same) times sounds like it could be a Chvrches, Regina Spektor, or Rihanna song. If there is a reasonable critique to give to this album, it would be how a few tracks harken back to some of the biggest pop hits of this century, from “Straight for the Knife” and “Fire Meet Gasoline”. There are traces of Christina Aguilera’s powerful “Beautiful” on the former while Beyoncé’s “Halo” most quickly comes to mind while playing “Gasoline”.
Working much better is the understated “Fair Game”, which gives Sia a sparse background to fill in herself. “I never played a fair game / I always had the upper hand,” she confesses during the chorus. Working just as well, and for different reasons, is the following “Elastic Heart”, which features contributions from The Weeknd and Diplo. It’s refreshing to hear Abel Tesfaye sing something as uplifting as “You did not break me”, when his discography up until this point has been solely about how broken, but not broke, he is. “I got a thick skin / And an elastic heart” they sing over an uncharacteristically restrained Diplo production that almost gets in the way, but largely stays in the background, allowing the two vocalists to shine. And there’s also “Hostages”, which would have been one of the best songs on either Angles or Comedown Machine.
But the one other song that comes close to approaching “Chandelier”’s heights is the sensational “Eye of the Needle”, a stunning ballad featuring a tour-de-force vocal performance from Sia, peaking with that phenomenal vocal run beginning at 2:48. The song appears to be a surefire winner if sent to radio programmers, with an ear worm melody and the best vocal performance from Sia on Fear sans “Chandelier”. I’ve mentioned that opening track a lot in this review, because it’s shadow looms that large over everything that follows it. So what if nothing surpasses the greatness of that song? Not many are able to reach the chandelier in the first place.