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Music Review: Sia – ‘1000 Forms of Fear’

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Australian–born singer/songwriter/producer Sia (real name Sia Kate Isobelle Furler) is a hit-making monster. Over the past half-decade she has penned an astonishing number of chart-topping hits for stars like Rihanna, Beyonce, Celine Dion and Britney Spears. Coupled with her solo work and guest appearances for mega DJs (David Guetta’s “Titanium”) and rappers alike (Flo Rida’s “Wild Ones”), Sia is one of the most visible personalities in music, which is ironic, because she is rarely in front of the camera.

Sia - 1000 Forms of FearInstead, Sia allows her music to speak for her. Sia’s strongest attribute is her voice. That instrument comes out best in her solo efforts, ranging from expressive and serene, to powerful and confident. Her voice has many fine details that accompany a diverse body of work, hitting on genres from downtempo to jazz to R&B. Her new album, 1000 Forms of Fear, may finally be her moment to ascend to the pop throne occupied by many of those for whom she currently writes. It’s certainly her biggest album in sound and production, but retains the somewhat offbeat character that defines her other solo work.

The lead single and first video, “Chandelier,” has close to 94 million views on YouTube in just three months. The eye-catching video is a perfect complement for the song, which has that mid-tempo verse/big chorus appeal that permeates the current pop charts. It’s a smart choice for a lead-off single. The backbeat echoes of Katy Perry, which is fitting since Sia wrote Perry’s hit “Double Rainbow.” The song is already on its way to being one of the top tracks of the summer.

“Hostage” is my favorite song on the album. The chorus is driving, moving straight through the melody rather than the expansive choruses in some of the other tracks. This gives the song a sleek urgency that plays well against Sia’s vocals. Other highlights include “Big Girls Cry” and “Eye of the Needle.” In fact, it’s hard to pick out a real clunker in the track list.

As a whole, Sia’s best work was always her own, but her increasing exposure writing songs for others makes 1000 Forms a more expansive record than her past work. She merges her own unique musical vision and the pop landscape. But rather than pull her work down to the more mundane, 1000 Forms allows a musicality that so often evades popular consumption, to creep into even the most pedestrian of songs. And at the end, the album becomes a potent mix of talent, melody, and incredible hooks.

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