We Are Born, by Sia
Suggested by Sara-Jane Davies
Sia is a bona fide character.
Originally an Acid Jazz singer in Nineties Australian band Crisp, and with two unassuming solo albums to her name, she moved to London in 1997 and sang backing vocals for Jamiroquai. A third solo album hit in 2004, before she relocated to New York in 2005, where her songs were used in popular yet fringe TV shows. (Ha! Fringe.)
Sia’s cache grew in her home country as more solo albums hit the aether, and her fame was growing at a modest but personally alarming rate. Her fourth studio album was her first to chart in the US, and her fifth – We Are Born, released in 2010 – was so well received that Sia decided enough was enough. She retired from her burgeoning pop stardom to become a songwriter instead.
She wrote Titanium, ostensibly for Alicia Keys, but producer David Guetta released Sia’s demo recording without her knowledge. In her “retirement” years, she wrote songs for Beyonce, Flo Rida, Kylie and Rhianna. Sia soon took to releasing her own material again, and hit worldwide fame with Chandelier, from her sixth album 1000 Forms of Fear. Still shunning fame, she performs either with her back to the audience or with her face entirely covered by oversized fringe-heavy wigs. These have become a hirsute calling card, and are so iconic that her appearance in the My Little Pony animated movie, as the pony pop sensation Songbird Serenade, saw her character sporting the trademark mane / hairstyle and concealed face combo.
Next, there’s Sia’s voice… and what a voice it is.
Sia’s talent for songwriting is established, and her vocal talent is similarly robust. Able of soaring and powerful highs alongside breathy emotional whispers, her technique is inimitable and her delivery is sublime. And she does all that, all that, while remaining completely and utterly incomprehensible. She’s a slightly more hinged Bjork, or a bizarre cross between Shirley Bassey and the Swedish Chef. But it works, and she sounds incredible.
On We Are Born, Sia brings us fresh slices of upbeat pop dance with a variety of exciting substyles. While each song remains essentially Sia, there’s enough variation to keep your mind working and your toes tapping. From the poppy guitars of You’ve Changed, which sounds like a lounge version of Franz Ferdinand, to my favourite track Clap Your Hands and its funky, fizzy bass, to the upbeat shine of Never Gonna Leave Me and the breathy low-key desperation of I’m In Here, Sia delivers a strong collection of vibrant and intelligent songs that tap into her persona with precision.
My only complaint, such as it is, would be that while each song is a fine example of the Sia Brand, there’s nothing here that’s a tier above, nothing that grips me hard and gives me pause. There’s no Chandelier-Level Event, nothing as atomic as Titanium. What is here are fine filigreed pop songs with a dance edge and a quirky vocal, and if I’m honest, that’s more than enough.
This album is a strong work by an established star, and I score it at a respectable 7/10. We Are Born has no filler, but no real killer. Either way it’s Sia to the core.