THE FIRST THING you think when you slap this platter on the gramophone is: ‘this sounds uncannily like Rihanna’. On the first song, ‘Chandelier’, the voice has the same metallic, machine-woman blend, with the same sex-toy nuances.
I had quite forgotten that Sia Furler has written songs for Rihanna. In fact, she’s one of the heavyweight songwriters of the present pop era, having worked with everyone from Britney Spears and Katy Perry through to Beyonce and Eminem. It’s interesting to note then, that there’s hardly even a trace of contemporary R&B on 1000 Forms Of Fear, her sixth album as a singer-songwriter in her own write (ha).
It’s an odd, and rather musically schizophrenic album; at once terrifically impressive in terms of sheer exposition of writing and singing talent, and deeply flawed in all sorts of ways.
The artwork presents Sia as a faceless blonde wig, which perhaps suggests a neurosis around her 38 years, and the fact that a going-on-middle-age white woman from kangaroo-land is never going to be either the sex symbol or the pop culture icon her talent deserves.
I mean, if there’s one thing 1000 Forms Of Fear proves, it’s that she can put her messed up life in lyrics that go with whatever style she writes a song in, and that she’s a masterful song-to-order kind of gal. It also proves that she’s got a voice to die for: one minute that voice is whispering in a bedside manner, the next it’s strong and strident, or flying off into an impressive operatic register.
But there’s something empty about all this, and that emptiness goes all the way to the earth’s core. Part of it is that, like so many wannabe pop stars, Sia is pretending to be emotionally arrested, terminally grappling with the issues of a 21-year-old. Then there’s the fact that the songs have magpie tendencies, when what we want is to hear Sia’s own voice and musical character. She sounded fully formed way back on the Zero 7 project at the turn of the century, so why not here? Too many cooks?
It doesn’t help that she favours annoyingly poor diction, again at its peak on that first song, where she sings like she’s got an enormous tongue that she’s chewing on while trying to get the words out.
It would probably all be a lot more fun if there was a groove to it, but the rhythms are mostly quite square, and she favours big, anthemic ballads with those choruses that are rammed home so persuasively that you hate them by their second pass-though.
Full of power pop and anguished ballads, emotionally indulgent and yet undeniably harnessing a genuine talent, 1000 Forms Of Fear is a recording that lusts after major chart action, but deep down, knows it’s not quite up to the chase. GARY STEEL
Sound = 3.5
Music = 3