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Sia, “1000 Forms of Fear” Album Review: A Reflection On the Darker Side of Life

Sia is kind of a big deal right now.

The lyrical skill behind massive global hits for Rihanna, Katy Perry, Rita Ora, Ne-Yo, Britney Spears, Kylie Minogue, Jennifer Lopez, Eminem, Christina Aguilera, and Beyonce, Sia has had a meteoric rise in the past half of a decade, transforming from an indie pop artist in her native Australia to one of the music industry’s most important, resilient, and noteworthy maestros, writing dozens of successful songs for artists.

She shot into the global stratosphere as the voice behind David Guetta’s ‘Titanium’, a global-sized anthem that the world over became enamoured with, despite Sia’s insistence that Mary J. Blige was originally meant to the voice on the track. Ever since then, she’s been in high demand, although has apparently found time to record her own album full of solid pop songs.

However, if you’re expecting the same radio-friendly pop brilliance Sia’s name has now come to be connected with in the music industry, you might need to recalibrate your expectations.

1000 Forms of Fear is not a happy album.

The album is one of Sia’s darkest offerings to date, even considering her earlier work, and provides plenty of melancholic pop gems that even the most discerning stars of the modern day would kill to lay their hands on. Lead single ‘Chandelier’ is dark commercial pop at its pinnacle, crafting together offbeat hooks with a soaring pop chorus to create a song about addiction and alcoholism and the dangers and perils of the party lifestyle in a way that evokes Rihanna’s recent work. Sia’s work in creating dark and anthemic pop songs has never been disputed, but in this record she seems more than ever to be making a statement for herself –  ‘Eye of the Needle’ is dark introspection as much as ‘Big Girls Cry’ is a big, brokenhearted ballad that tugs at the cardiac valves like nobody’s business.

This dramatic flair shines brightly on several songs on ‘1000 Forms of Fear’. ‘Cellophane’ is a haunting tune carried away and built on dramatic drumbeats, while her Hunger Games soundtrack submission ‘Elastic Heart’ is a dark collaboration with The Weeknd that is aptly cinematic. Amidst the occasional spot of filler (namely ‘Straight for the Knife’), this dark and introspective side to Sia continues to flourish with songs like the electronic ‘Dressed In Black’, the moody ballad ‘Fair Game’, or the astonishingly brilliant metaphor song ‘Fire Meet Gasoline’. This is not the bright girl who gave us ‘Clap Your Hands’, ladies and gentlemen.

Elsewhere, Sia occasionally lets the darkness slide in favour of a couple somewhat brighter moments more reminiscent of ‘We Are Born’; notably, ‘Hostage’ which is a perky, almost jubilant song about love, and ‘Burn the Pages’ with utilises Ms Furler’s penchant for radio-friendly catchiness to full effect, and the stadium-sized, soaring indie pop song ‘Free the Animal’.

Sia’s album is more of a dramatic statement, than a simple collection of pop songs, although it manages to function on this secondary level as well. ‘1000 Forms of Fear’ is a reflection on fear and the dark side of life, and Sia’s self-confession of not wanting to be a visible pop star seems to be a keystone throughout. Even on the album cover, only her iconic blonde cropped hair is present, rather than her own face. Sia is happy working behind the scenes, and this album is a sonically-adventurous, vulnerable shield against becoming too entrenched and visible in the mainstream music scene. Only her voice remains; it is from that we construct her identity, rather than a pouting face from the cover.

Sia is not your usual kind of popstar. And that’s just how she likes it.