Album Review: Sia – 1000 Forms Of Fear

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The name Sia Furler has been something of a household name in songwriting since late 2012 after a certain Bajan beauty released a song with lyrics pertaining to colourless crystalline stones that skyrocketed to number 1.

While she provided success for David Guetta and Flo Rida by providing guest vocals on songs such as ‘Titanium’ and ‘Wild Ones’, people became more enchanted by her lyrical prowess and she soon found herself on everybody’s most wanted list. The fame-shy lady of letters soon went on to write songs for many of pop’s top names; ‘Loved Me Back to Life’ for Celine Dion, ‘Perfume’ for Britney, ‘Sexercise’ for Kylie, ‘Pretty Hurts’ for Beyonce, ‘Cannonball’ for Lea Michele and the list goes on. Not to mention, many guest appearances with Electronic kings Zero 7.

The timourous chanteuse has always been diverse and experimental about her style; styles including Trip Hop, Indie Pop, Acid Jazz, Soul and Dance Pop. Following the intelligent 80’s inspired Dance Pop album ‘We Are Born’, comes ‘1000 Forms of Fear’, which finds Sia dabbling with Pop music once more but this time interwoven with a bombastic theatrical thread and urban undercurrant.

Chandelier’ opens the doorway into the album and as we all know, it’s a behemoth of a song. Led by an ambling hip hop beat and lightly shimmering Electronica, Sia’s lyrics emanate a dubious invincibility as she wearily sings about party girls living behind the pseudo shield that is alcohol and drinking themselves into oblivion and waking up with regret and shame.

The chorus demonstrates how truly powerful Sia’s vocals can be, the acrobatics are simply out of this world, and also out of this reality as her demented howls are quite the supernatural force.
The bridge is probably the saddest part of the lyrics as Sia narrates how she is “holding on for dear life”, that the partying has become too dangerous for her to manage. Which begs the question, is the chandelier from which she is so blithely swinging, a metaphor for her life?

Big Girls Cry’ (Sorry to contradict Fergie and Frankie Valli) is a gripping, mascara-stained Pop/R&B ballad that speaks about the toughest of girls needing to feel vulnerable and human in times of hurt. Much like ‘Chandelier’, the various sonic layers continue to reveal themselves as the song progresses. While not as immediately explosive as the latter title, ‘Big Girls Cry’ has more emotional anguish that can sucker punch the hardest of hearts with it’s emotional fervence.

Burn The Pages’ is a more carefree affair than it’s predecessors. Straight up synthpop about letting go of the past, throwing words into a diary, and burning the pages.

Melodically, the song is a bit frenzied in places, with Sia almost sounding like she’s tripping over herself trying to get through the song. With a small amount of fine tuning, the song could’ve been a hit amongst pop fans for the summer.

Eye of The Needle’ brings back more of the emotional artillery that Sia delivers so well. Here, she rides over contemplative piano and drums rolling in pummelling waves. Lyrically, the song addresses her ambivalence about moving on from something she’d love to hold onto, and as a consequence, she has to hold back the resulting terrors that come with such a realisation. And while she allows herself to be weighed down by this “earthly desire”, she may never know paradise.

Hostage’ battles against it’s antagonistic title and recalls Sia’s previous album ‘We Are Born’ and reads like a sister to album track ‘Never Gonna Leave Me’. The vocals carry more confidence and life as the song’s love-at-first-kiss lyrics detail being “Held Hostage by your love”. Sia’s lack of diction betrays her a bit here as the Pop Rock vibe entangles itself with her vocals, making it hard to determine what she is singing about, but the overall song is so full of effervescence, that it’s very hard to care. Besides, I’m sure we can all relate to being in that state of focusing so much thought on somebody new that we’re almost held hostage by them.

Straight for The Knife’ moves with the cinematic drama that Lana Del Rey has become known for. The violence of the title is apparent in the in the lyrics as Sia sings of an evening out being marred by her partner exhibiting a deprecatory behaviour in going “Straight for the knife” just to hurt her. Tired of her fault-finding inamorato, Sia soon prepares herself for the worst over a collaboration of strings and orchestral drums.

Fair Game’ is probably an adequate indication to newer fans of what her ‘Colour the Small One’ album was about. Sia sings along a gentle string section creating a lush Folk soundscape about surrendering her dominance in love and allowing the man to take the reigns, show her that she can be vulnerable when he’s strong and show her what a fair game in love is all about.

On ‘Elastic Heart’, a contribution to the Hunger Games: Catching Fire soundtrack, Sia creates one of the strangest collaborations possible when she is joined by sonic shapeshifter Diplo and Michael Jackson’s Spectral-R&B parallel The Weeknd. The production is very Diplo; filled to the brim with chopped and screwed vocals, hip hop beats and unwonted mechanical textures. Sia sounds strangely at home as she declares “I’ve got thick skin and an Elastic Heart” over the anthemic Hip Hop chorus. The Weeknd’s contribution is a strange one that makes an uncanny amount of sense. Where Sia’s powerhouse vocals provide strength and stoicism, The Weeknd’s delicately fluttering falsetto provides a beautiful vulnerability to this banger.

Off the back of ‘Elastic Heart’ comes the almost-equally as quirky ‘Free The Animal’. This track fittingly features Sia in her most vicious vocal yet, as she roars her idiosyncratic lyrics of letting love exist in it’s most primal form and releasing their inner animals, even if that means loving them dangerously.

Fire Meet Gasoline’ recalls Sia’s work with Glee actress and singer Lea Michele. It’s big. It’s theatrical and full of clever metaphors. The booming ballad details two people (Fire and Gasoline) meeting for the first time and the chemistry between the two destructive elements creates a passion so volatile it explodes in a chaotic blast.

Cellophane’ is perhaps the most sinister outing on the album. During the verses, Sia is accompanied solely by what can only be described as a faint heartbeat rhythm and then joined by a surf rock guitar for the choruses. It’s a rather enchanting piece in all of it’s minimalism as it let’s Sia’s formidable vocals crawl through the darkness with a look to kill.

Dressed In Black’ reminds us of the bombastic drama that ‘Chandelier’ gave us – A fitting way to end the album. For the verses, the emotionally strained vocals sing alongside a lullaby-esque twinkling which persists through the song’s entire 6-minute timeframe, including the eerily dark and powerful chorus. The lyrics of the chorus indicate Sia encountering a potential new love while still grieving for her preceding love, “You found me Dressed In Black, hiding where I put the past”.

While not without it’s flaws, 1000 Forms of Fear rings true to it’s dramatic title and releases Sia from her heavy emotional weight through gargantuan vocals, exceptional power balladry and intelligent lyricism.

‘1000 Forms of Fear’ will be available for purchase from July 7

 

Listen to the audio for ‘Big Girls Cry’ below:

 

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