Over the past five years, Sia has steadily become pop music’s most in-demand songwriter.
She’s penned tracks for everyone from Christina Aguilera (“You Lost Me”) to David Guetta (“Titanium”) to Ne-Yo (“Let Me Love You”) to Rihanna (“Diamonds”) to Britney (“Perfume”) Beyoncé (“Pretty Hurts”). Really, which major pop player hasn’t tapped her for a tune?
Yet after all this time, apart from some high profile features and a one-off soundtrack single, she’s not yet released a solo single of her own since 2010.
This is the comeback at last — and it’s a beast.
“Party girls don’t get hurt…”
“Chandelier” was penned and produced alongside constant collaborators Greg Kurstin and engineer-turned-producer Jesse Shatkin (who I spoke to about the song last week), and formally kicks off the long-awaited follow-up to 2010’s We Are Born.
The track is unbelievably catchy from start to finish, sauntering along on a tripping hip-hop beat, marimba and a light bubbling of electronica in the distance (a Kurstin signature!) that reeks of Top 40 appeal — but it’s deceptively deeper than your standard radio fare.
“1, 2, 3, drink…”
And we’re off! With a drinking game of a pre-chorus, the shots are lined and ready to go, all for that massive whoosh of a chorus…
“IIIIIII’m going to swiiiiiiing from the chan-de-li-eeeeeeeeer!“
BOOM. That chorus, my God(ney) — surely it’s one of the best choruses Sia’s ever delivered? Her voice is just nuts — “vocal acrobatics” doesn’t even do justice to describe that kind of unhinged wailing. She’s belting to the breaking point, quivering at the sheer force. Who else could deliver that kind of a chorus? No one — which is why it’s a damn good thing Sia kept it for herself.
“Help me, I’m holding on for dear life…”
But it’s not quite a happy song at all, is it? As the drinks continue to flow and that massive swell of a chorus transitions into an equally stunning post-chorus (also, why isn’t there more of this in pop music?!), we’re getting another glimpse of the party girl glimmering from the chandelier: She’s terrified, fucked up and barely just hanging on. (2007 realness, if you catch my drift.)
“Here comes the shame, here comes the shame…”
Like the subject matter of another obsession of late (Tove Lo‘s “Habits”) “Chandelier” is ultimately a brutally honest tale of substance abuse not-so-thinly veiled within a hook-heavy pop song.
“Keep my glass full until morning light, ’cause I’m just holding on for tonight…”
And the song’s final few moments, as the music cinematically swells and Sia repeatedly begs herself to keep holding on? Done.
Sia’s always been an exceptional storyteller, but she’s really gone and done it this time: It’s more than one too many shots at the club. It’s beyond the 3 AM stumble back to the apartment, the tearful breakdown against the door and that text to your ex. It’s a cry for help set to song, ultimately.
50 Shades Of Too Real? One of the best songs of 2014? Her best since “Breathe Me”? It all sounds like hyperbole, I know…but it’s true.
“Chandelier” was released on March 17. (iTunes)