Sia's '1000 Forms of Fear': What the Critics Are Saying (Video)
For someone who doesn't want to be famous, Sia is doing very well for herself. She's written hit tracks for Beyonce, Rihanna, David Guetta and Flo Rida.
Sia Furler's1000 Forms of Fear (RCA) is her sixth studio album and her first in four years. For the last few years, the Australian singer-songwriter focused primarily on writing songs for others, penning (and appearing on) a stream of hits on the Billboard charts, including "Wild Ones" and "She Wolf (Falling to Pieces)" for Flo Rida, David Guetta's "Titanium" and Rihanna's "Diamonds." She's written for countless other artists, including Katy Perry, Beyonce, Kesha, Shakira and Maroon 5. Her tracks have also appeared on the soundtracks of blockbusters The Great Gatsby and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.
It's been a while since her last release because Sia wanted out of the fame game — indefinitely.
Four years ago, she took a step out of the spotlight in hopes to write for others, but instead found herself struggling with drug and alcohol addiction and depression, and seriously contemplating suicide. She has since moved past a lot of those feelings, but her "manifesto" remains the same.
According to her Billboard cover story last October, her contract with RCA did not require her to tour or appear in any promotions for this album. So that is exactly what she did.
Time's Nolan Feeney explains in his review of the album that Sia has "become even more insistent on avoiding the fame and attention that nearly drove her to a drug overdose in 2010" and "does promotional performances for her new album … with her back to the audience while Lena Dunham and others dance in wigs styled after the singer's signature haircut, a blonde bob with blunt bangs."
"For the most part, it works," Feeney says of the album. "She belts, yelps, mumbles and occasionally breaks — a subtle reminder that her impressive vocal acrobatics need no help from studio magic — across the album's consistent dozen tracks."
The New York Times' Jon Pareles also applauds the perfection and passion of the release, saying, "her singing — both leads and backups — slurs and scrapes, catches and yowls, quavers and shouts. It's not the triumphal, laminated, computer-perfected tone of Sia's clients. It's the sound of the loopy, unresolved passions that can still be alive within pop formulas."
Fear, which was recently named to Rolling Stone's list of the "45 Best Albums of 2014 So Far," saw its lead single "Chandelier" peaking at No. 20 on the Billboard chart. "Her knack for heart-swelling choruses shines through on a set of tracks you might play while winning a marathon," said the magazine.
"Chandelier" is her first Top 40 hit as a solo artist.
"It's a jaw-dropping vocal performance that's enough to convince you she could have a stadium-touring career of her own, making her previously released solo material seem impossibly minor by comparison," said Pitchfork's Jeremy Gordon about the track.
It could be too perfect, though, The Guardian's Harriet Gibsone points out. "Her talent and torment is enrapturing, but while Sia deserves stardom, 1000 Forms of Fear is so sonically flawless and contemporary-sounding that its impact may fade with time," said Gibsone in her mixed review.
Overall, Sia's release was a favorite amongst the critics.
"It's an album designed for playing late at night; even peppier tracks like the popping-piston 'Burn the Pages' and the jittery 'Hostage' have a darkness to them," said Spin's Maura Johnston, rating the release a 8 out of 10. "That darkness might not make Sia the world's hugest pop star, but it sure makes her one of its more compelling ones."