Sia salvages rejected songs in new album

Singer Sia, who often hides her face (above)to preserve her anonymity, returns to dark territory on her latest album by exploring abusive relationships.
Singer Sia, who often hides her face (above) to preserve her anonymity, returns to dark territory on her latest album by exploring abusive relationships.PHOTO: NEW YORK TIMES
Singer Sia (above), who often hides her face to preserve her anonymity, returns to dark territory on her latest album by exploring abusive relationships.
Singer Sia (above), who often hides her face to preserve her anonymity, returns to dark territory on her latest album by exploring abusive relationships.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Australian singer- songwriter's seventh album, This Is Acting, features compositions she had written for stars such as Adele and Rihanna

NEW YORK • For her first album since her breakthrough hit Chandelier, Sia is facing off on the charts against superstars Adele and Rihanna. And they are likely familiar with some of the songs - they were written for them.

This Is Acting, the seventh album by the Australian singer known both for her distinctively soaring voice and her face-covering black-and-white wig, consists of tunes that she wrote, offered to other artists and, after deals fell through, salvaged.

For her, the album is a multidimensional paradox. She is interpreting her own songs, ones that are often highly personal. But they were intended to come from the hearts of others.

The album's first single, Alive, was meant for Adele's blockbuster album 25.

It matches the mood of 25, as Sia - playing the role of Adele - reminisces about her childhood and her survival into adulthood to a tune that opens with rich, dark piano chords before a rapid climax.

Sia, speaking to Apple Music's Beats 1 radio, said she was surprised Adele did not want Alive.

"I thought this one was such a smash, but she just wasn't feeling it," she told host Zane Lowe, who described the album as playing "fantasy football with the world's pop stars".

Sia similarly appears to channel Beyonce on the more inspirational Footprints, a string-backed, mid-tempo pop song that uses subtle spiritual imagery to describe salvation either by a partner or God.

A more conventional pop ballad, Reaper, was co-produced by rap star Kanye West.

Sia wrote Reaper and Cheap Thrills for Rihanna, who released her long-awaited album, Anti, last Wednesday. But the R&B superstar, whose new album focuses on inward-looking ballads, rejected them.

Even giddier is Move Your Body, a club dance track Sia wrote for Shakira.

The 40-year-old, whose real name is Sia Furler, had her start in the jazz scene of Adelaide and remains more of an indie singer.

But she has become a major writer for pop stars, notably composing Rihanna's 2012 worldwide hit Diamonds.

Sia, who keeps her face hidden to preserve her anonymity, has struggled with addiction, a battle that figured prominently on her last album, 1000 Forms Of Fear, which came out in 2014. The album's hit, Chandelier, an electropop ballad of a party girl's alcohol-fuelled selfdestruction, was nominated for Grammys for Song of the Year and Record of the Year.

She returns to dark territory on the latest album by exploring abusive relationships.

House On Fire is a metaphor for personal chaos.

The similarly bleak Bird Set Free was written for Adele, who did not find it suitable.

Speaking to Rolling Stone magazine, Sia said she thought most of her songs for pop stars were "terribly, terribly cheesy". But she acknowledged that she knew a successful tune when she wrote one.

"It really seems like the general public responds well to songs about salvation or overcoming something, or that everything's going to be okay, or that things are fun," she said.

"I think that my skill is more upbeat curating, as in choosing the right tracks and then sort of trying to understand the will or nature of popular culture."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 01, 2016, with the headline 'Sia salvages rejected songs in new album'. Print Edition | Subscribe