As I say almost every time I post a Coachella Band Preview, the days keep dwindling until the epic festival in the desert. At this point, less than 2 months remain until Coachella Weekend 1. This week I’m actually not previewing any band though. I’m previewing a singer who’s been active since the mid-90’s, but has only received great acclaim in the last 2 years. I’m not sure if you’d be able to recognize her if you saw her out on the streets somewhere due to her somewhat recent decision to not show her face when she performs. You may however know her from her over-sized platinum blonde wigs that cover most of her face. If that rings a bell, then yes it’s Sia and she’ll be performing at Coachella this year for the first time (sort of, but I’ll explain later).
Australian singer-songwriter, Sia Furler, known to the world as Sia, began her singing career shortly after she graduated high school in 1994 as a singer for acid jazz band, Crisp. By 1997 the band broke up and Sia released her debut solo album, OnlySee, but the album didn’t receive much success. Sia then moved to London where she performed as a background singer for the band Jamiroquai and lead vocalist for the band Zero 7. During the time she fronted Zero 7, she released her second and third solo albums entitled Hearing is Difficult (2001) and Colour the Small One (2004), respectively. The single “Breathe Me” off Colour the Small One received commercial success throughout several countries in Europe and even gained Sia some attention in America as the track was featured in the final episode of the HBO series Six Feet Under. By 2005, Sia decided to make the move to America in an effort to further her music career.
Between 2007 and 2010, Sia released three more albums. The first was a live album in 2007, Lady Croissant, which featured songs performed at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City in April 2006 while she was on tour and one studio track, “Pictures”. The following year she released her fourth studio album, Some People Have REAL Problems and in 2010 released her fifth album, We Are Born. Both albums had a few successful singles that were charted in a few European countries and Australia. We Are Born even won the artist two ARIA (Australian Recording Industry Association) Awards in 2010. After touring in North America, Europe, and Australia to promote We Are Born, Sia decided to retire from her career as a recording artist and focus on becoming a pop songwriter. It was at that point that the unexpected happened.
Sia wrote a song for recording artist Alicia Keys. However, the song was sent to French DJ and EDM artist David Guetta. David Guetta ended up using the song with Sia’s original demo vocals without her approval and the song, called “Titanium”, became a worldwide mainstream success. Despite the popularity of the song, Sia wasn’t pleased since she had recently retired and wanted to focus on songwriting. She did co-write songs from 2011-2013 for many artists like Beyonce, Flo Rida, and Rihanna. In a similar situation to the one with David Guetta, Flo Rida used Sia’s vocals on the song “Wild Ones”.
In 2013, Sia came out of retirement, so to speak, and released the single “Elastic Heart” featuring The Weeknd and Diplo as a song on The Hunger Games: Catching Fire soundtrack. In July 2014, she released her sixth album, 1000 Forms of Fear, which she intended to be the last album she needed to release in order to release her from her record deal, but the album became her most successful to date. It debuted in the top spot on the Billboard Top 200 and sold 52,000 copies in the first week. It reached the top ten on numerous European charts and number 1 in Australia. Along with “Elastic Heart”, which she released as a solo version on the album and as a single, the track “Chandelier” received high praise worldwide. Sia even received four Grammy nominations in 2015 for “Chandelier”, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Pop Solo Performance, and Best Music Video. After the Grammys last year, Sia announced she had completed a follow up album to 1000 Forms of Fear because of her success.
Sia’s seventh album This Is Acting was released January 29, 2016. Her first single from the album, “Alive”, which she co-wrote with Adele, debuted prior to the album release in September 2015. In the following months leading up to the album debut, she also released several other singles, “Bird Set Free”, “One Million Bullets”, “Cheap Thrills”, “Reaper”, and “Unstoppable”. I’m not sure if her latest album will achieve the same success as her prior release, but with the quality of the newest album, it may come close.
Sia’s music can be considered pop, indie pop, and electropop, but her vocals incorporate elements of hip-hop, funk, and soul. I feel like her most recent work (1000 Forms of Fear and This Is Acting) exhibits more power in her vocals than in past records as well, especially in the songs “Alive”, “Chandelier”, “Unstoppable”, and “Eye of the Needle”. If you listen to We Are Born the last album before her “retirement”, it has a much more indie pop vibe. Some People Have REAL Problems is more pop with elements of soul included and Colour the Small One is very pop as well. Healing is Difficult has a hip-hop style and almost reminds me of 90’s hip-hop/R&B girl group, TLC. It’s evident that throughout the years of her career Sia’s style has fluctuated, but it seems that she’s finally found her niche with her power pop vocals and pop/indie pop sound.
I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t heard of Sia before she was featured on “Titanium” and released her latest two albums. I definitely heard of her throughout the 00’s, but never listened to her music because it didn’t fit with what I was listening to at the time and also because she wasn’t a “big deal” musically. Even within the last two years, I didn’t listen to her music. It’s only been during the last few weeks or so that I really started getting to know this talented artist. I added the song “Elastic Heart” to my Spotify playlist of recent music finds after seeing it on my favorite soccer player’s monthly music playlist and liking the song after listening to it a few times. It was recent single “Cheap Thrills”, which again was featured on that player’s monthly playlist, that hooked me on Sia though. I just purchased her latest album on Friday and have been listening to it since. It’s good. She’s good. I may just have to purchased 1000 Forms of Fear as well, except, I definitely want it on vinyl.
As I mentioned before, it will sort of be Sia’s first time performing at Coachella this spring. She appeared during David Guetta’s set in 2012 to perform “Titanium”, but has not ever done a solo set at the annual event. Sia’s Coachella appearance will actually be her first live set in five years, so it should attract a huge audience. Not to mention in the last five years Sia’s popularity has sky rocketed. Sia plays Sunday at Coachella. If I had to make a guess, even though set times won’t be released for weeks, I’ll say she probably plays the main stage before Calvin Harris closes out the weekend. You’re most likely not gonna want to miss her performance, so to get you ready:
- Elastic Heart
- Cheap Thrills
- Breathe Me
- Big Girls Cry
- Clap Your Hands
- Bird Set Free
- Fire Meets Gasoline
- Eye of the Needle