Album: 1000 Forms of Fear
Release Date: July 8, 2014
Several years ago, if one were to ask the public about Sia, one might be met with head scratches followed by a “Who?” Nowadays, Sia has been the go to song-writer for many mainstream artists, from Christina Aguilera to Rihanna, from Katy Perry to Beyoncé; her name has become synonymous with “melodious Pop ballads.” After all, who wouldn’t sought Sia, especially with beloved tracks such as Breathe Me, I’m in Here, and Soon We’ll Be Found under her belt, it’s no surprised that she has become the “it” songwriter at the moment. However, some of these songs she has written for other artists have been sub-par to say the least, so even the greats do falter from time to time. The important question is did it affect her own work? Yes and No.
Behind its celebratory sound, the opening track, Chandelier, is an explosive hymn about her personal account of alcoholism and prescription drug addiction. The hit single upon released have been met with mixed reactions though most leaning towards the positive side of the spectrum. The reason for this is that the song is almost a carbon copy of Diamond, the chart topping hit she wrote for Rihanna. So some question whether it was a song meant for the Barbadian singer since not only does it sound like her past hit but it also has a Caribbean flair. One quality that Chandelier has that Diamond lacks is the harmonious post chorus in which the festive song turns dark and becomes a plea for help as she try to “hold on for dear life.”
If it weren’t for the rhythmic urban beats that liven up this mid-tempo track for the broken-hearted, Elastic Heart could have been just another catchy track on the record. Apart from being revamped as a solo track, there doesn’t seem to be any difference between the version that appeared on the Hunger Games soundtrack and the one from the album. Meanwhile, Big Girls Cry is reminiscent of mid 2000’s pop ballads with its fusion of Pop & RnB.
Out of all the songs on the album, Fire Meet Gasoline is the track with the most potential to hit the top spot on the charts. However, if somehow one found themselves humming or singing along to its chorus with another chorus from another hit song, that’s probably due to the chorus sounding like Beyonce’s Halo; it’s also just as repetitive. Whether it was sampled, a coincidence or plain copying, there was no hiding it, the similarity is so immediate upon first listen. Of course, with millions of songs being written every day, some songs are bound to sound the same, still seeing that Sia is a Beyonce fan, the similarity should have been apparent and noted. Nonetheless, this little fiasco still doesn’t tarnish Sia’s credibility; it’s just worth pointing out. Also when it comes to which of the two is better, Fire Meet Gasoline easily wins the match. Bar the lyrics, let’s just say that Fire Meet Gasoline’s chorus is more than just anthemic, it also sounds victorious especially from the bridge onwards.
The strongest attribute of this album are the lyrics, when it came to it Sia didn’t baby her audience and hold back. The lyrics are descriptively violent in ways that they’re tiptoeing the line between disturbing and something that can be easily swallowed. So with lyrics this great, melodies just as hard-hitting and powerful should complement them, right? Well they are hard-hitting but not in ways that are positive. Sia is blessed with powerful vocals in which her accent and tone adds a unique charm to it, especially for songs with melodies overflowing with emotions, her vocals can really be emotive and can even move the unmoved. For 1000 Forms of Fear, that is rarely the case. There are some songs where the melodies clash with her vocals which makes them grating to listen to; so some may start out great but end up annoying and vice versa.
One those tracks, Eye of the Needle, is a great example of having that marriage between great vocals and irritating melody. The verses have this drawn out vocal embellishments which can be tiring to listen to due to the verses themselves sounding mundane, yet that same embellishment can be found in the chorus but somehow it works and makes the chorus sound bigger. Also, like a shoddy present with a nice little bow, the bridge of the song is just like that. It starts off with a not so flattering melody but the note at the end, that belt is the little pretty bow that sits atop an unwanted gift. To some extent, Free the Animal suffers the same fate. Not only does the chorus sounds a bit like Bruno Mar’s Locked Out of Heaven, in between, one will hear Sia singing so jarringly. Fortunately the rest of the track isn’t bad; in fact the bridge with the marimba dancing underneath her vocals is quite refreshing to listen to.
Overall, the album’s sound is ambitious and big, but it can be quite monotonous.
Yet the album does take one moment to let the audience breathe. Though it’s not quite mellow, this horror soundtrack candidate, Cellophane, relies only on Sia’s powerful vocals to create a towering sound while the mammoth instrumentals found in other tracks is replaced by a haunting atmosphere crafted through suspenseful thumps and eerie backing vocals along with a guest appearance of a simple guitar riff akin to Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game. It’s a hard song to get through upon first listen since it does have a rather dry production, though that might be the appeal of the track.
While Sia’s song writing have become pedestrian when it comes to collaborating with mainstream artists, her own work still shines, albeit not as bright as before but at least they didn’t seem too affected by her newfound fame. It’s a solid pop record; nonetheless, it seems her hiding her face from the public is a metaphor for what the album lacks, an identity. It’s really easy to imagine most of the tracks being sung by other pop acts, only a few can truly be branded as an “original” Sia.
Songs to Download: Dressed In Black, Big Girls Cry, Elastic Heart, Chandelier, Fire Meet Gasoline