Wednesday, July 2, 2014

1000 Forms of Fear | Sia


★★★★☆

Australian singer-songwriter Sia Furler has made quite a splash in the United States in the past few years with her plethora of features on songs like "Titanium" and "Wild Ones," and has most recently been noticed for her solo hit "Chandelier." Four years sit between the release of her fifth album, We Are Born, and her newest release, 1000 Forms of Fear, but for Sia, those years were filled with a growing problem with alcohol and drug abuse, one foiled suicide plan, the entrance to a twelve-step program, and an ongoing dread of actually becoming famous.

TRACK-BY-TRACK

1000 Forms of Fear opens with the track that is not only the most popular, but is also the most personal and heartfelt: "Chandelier." The song covers Sia's struggle with dependence on alcohol in the past years, making it a very personal track even though the track was originally written with stars like Rihanna and BeyoncĂ© in mind. Sia hooks people in as she uses her powerhouse vocals to sing "I'm going to swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier / I'm gonna live like tomorrow doesn't exist, like it doesn't exist / I'm gonna fly like a bird through the night, feel my tears as they dry."

On the next track, Sia proves that "Big Girls Cry." (Sorry, Fergie.) The sultry track, Sia slurs through verses before building to a chorus, in which she sings, "I may cry, ruining my makeup / Wash away all the things you've taken / I don't care if I don't look pretty / Big girls cry when their hearts are breaking." For "Burn The Pages," a lighter sound with twinkling synths is used. It actually sounds like a song that could have come straight off of Chvrches' debut album.

The album's first promo single, "Eye of the Needle," relies on a simplistic instrumental and a repeating vocal run in between phrases, but it's a solid piece. The vocals are just as stunning as ever and the lyrics are on-point; the only problem I have with the song is the recycled "Titanium" vocal run in the bridge. Following "Eye of the Needle" is "Hostage," a fast-tempo, alternative rock-inspired song that can easily be forgotten.

Half of 1000 Forms of Fear was written solely by Sia herself, while the other half was co-written by Sia with outside help. Justin Parker, who has worked Rihanna, Lana Del Rey, and Ellie Goulding, has a co-writing credit for "Straight to the Knife," a moving ballad that metaphorically compares the end of a relationship to homicide. Another ballad, "Fair Game," succeeds it in the track listing, but seems to fall flat when compared to "Straight to the Knife."

"Elastic Heart," which originally featured Diplo and The Weeknd, premiered on the soundtrack of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire last year, but a solo version of the song was squeezed on the track listing of 1000 Forms of Fear as well. The song is heavily guided by electronic influences, while also not losing a signature Sia touch. The following track, "Free the Animal" is a glitchy tribute to 1980s pop. Underneath powerful belts in the song's chorus, Sia raves some nearly indecipherable words, followed by some electronically edited vocals to create a sound that resembles a broken 8-bit video game.

A majority of this album focuses on Sia's vocal power and "Fire Meet Gasoline" is definitely no exception. To be honest, the lyrics are quite repetitive, but the killer vocal line makes up for that shortcoming. The same could not be said about the following track, "Cellophane," however. The song has a simplistic instrumental track and now leaves the crestfallen lyrics to stand for themselves, from "Look at me I’m such a basket case / While I fall apart, you hide on my pills again," to "Can’t hide the pain / When you’re wrapped in cellophane."

1000 Forms of Fear ends on a blossoming, sultry note with "Dressed In Black." The song reminds me slightly of Foxes' "Holding Onto Heaven" in the nature that it uses one strand of a twinkling chime and builds on top of it. The song features a beautiful outro of Sia wailing over a chorus of... well, a chorus of Sia. It offers a beautiful, ambient closure to the album.

OVERALL

The production is great, but also tends to draw a little dull when listening to the album in full. The songs on this album thrive on a powerful, moving chorus, making them all radio friendly - the type of music that most Americans tend to be drawn to nowadays. I do truly appreciate that the production on 1000 Forms of Fear is focused on Sia's powerful vocals. Nothing has been unnecessarily added to overpower or outshine the vocal talent here. However, I wish that Sia would have taken that voice to go further outside her comfort zone; I think she's underestimating the power of her own voice.

Sia really hit it big in her native country Down Under, but in terms of radio airplay in the United States, only Sia's featured songs really took off until "Chandelier." Even with the relatively vapid productions on 1000 Forms of Fear, Sia's voice and lyrics shine through to create a pretty solid album. Although she doesn't want to be a worldwide superstar, she just created a record so enticing to the masses that she may have accidentally injected her name into the jugular vein of pop culture. 

1000 Forms of Fear will be released on July 8, 2014 under RCA Records and Monkey Puzzle Records.

1 comment:

  1. First of all: I love the new background. You even got Confessions on a Dance Floor and JLO! XD Second of all: This is one of the creepiest album covers ever. I should probably listen to Sia's new stuff since I like her previous material well enough.

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