Sia – Note to Self

Sia - Note to Self

One of the greatest things about music is its incredible healing powers – for both the singer/songwriter and the listener. For most emotional crises, mental breakdowns, or exuberant celebrations the right album can be found to make all the difference for a successful recovery. Like when a great love has just been lost, listening to Elliot Smith’s XO or Doves‘ The Last Broadcast can help soothe the beginning stages of heartache. Music is there when kind reassurances from friends can’t be enough to mend whatever is broken. Or when the healing process is finally complete and the only proper way to commemorate a comeback is musical solitude. There is a genuine comfort in knowing that the songs you listen to in times of despair are the product of the same heartache, hurt, and desire you feel.

There are also albums that inspire and help bring a person back from darker times. These albums are essential cornerstones to a different life. They speak about the tough times but, unlike the breakdown records, these songs illustrate the misery with strength, wit, and insight. So, when someone is ready to shed the yucky stuff and move upwards and onwards they can turn to albums like Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill or the latest stunning release from Sia titled Some People Have Real Problems to help them gain a little gumption.

Sia Furler, a recent New York City implant, has been creating delectable pop music for almost a decade, both as a solo artist and as the distinctive voice behind the music of Zero 7. Though she may just barely be peeking out above the radar at the moment, she is on the brink of becoming one of those artists that everyone goes on and on about. It’s fair to say that with the two captivating albums she has already written (Healing is Difficult – 2002 and Colour the Small One – 2006; Sia also recorded a live album, 2007’s Lady Croissant), Sia is someone people should have taken notice of years ago. Her albums are like diary entries set to music and every song is a reminder of some past incident that has helped shape the remarkable person she has grown to become.

Sia’s ability to strike at every chord of your heart with songs that range from painfully raw to wickedly hilarious is a testimony to her unrivaled musical integrity. Her latest release is a delicate reminder to stay grounded in the midst of rising stardom. “It’s like a note to self – a reminder. Like we would be in the studio and people would come in or I would come in with these bourgeois problems, like the traffic was shit today and somehow, I don’t know who started it, but it’s like – ‘People have real problems and all this small stuff is inconsequential. Like, some people don’t have lungs or a mum and none of this really matters in the grand scheme of things.’ So I to try to make notes to myself and what better way than to name your album that. So when people ask you about it you can remind yourself why you wrote it in the first place.”

One of the most intriguing things about Sia is how naturally music seems to flow through her. Her songwriting and singing allows her to communicate her experiences to herself and we all benefit from that marriage. Her buttery and poignant voice is like clay; it molds itself to fit the lyrical emotions of her songs. Her personality shines through her vocal chords as fluidly as they do through her words.

Although Sia has a few musical influences here and there, she seems to gather a lot of inspiration and creativity directly from her immediate experiences. “I don’t know. Probably whatever has happened that day? I’m sure it would be part of my history, but I’ve never really thought about it. I do know that I only had a couple of cds growing up. I had the Jackson 5’s anthology, Jeff Buckley’s Grace. The first few records I bought were The Bangles, Terence Trent D’Arby and Soul II Soul. I listened to pop music as a kid, so I listened to what was on the radio or on the TV. My parents were in bands – like rockabilly bands – my dad was in a blues band at one point and my mom was in a band called Girls at Play which was a play off a family friend’s band Men at Work. And the voices I loved growing up were Chrissie Hynde, Annie Lennox, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Jeff Buckley, Lauren Hill, and Cindy Lauper. I am sure it was a plethora of different things.”

The new album is an enticing mixture of sweet and sour melodies. Some of the songs make you giggle, some make you think, but mostly the songs on Some People Have Real Problems make you feel like trying again. Songs like “Little Black Sandals,” with its gentle truths and soulful harmonies, gives its listeners the permission to stand up and reclaim themselves.

Really, all three of her albums act as a sort of chronicle of her experiences with love, loss, and life. They are the truest expressions of the roller coaster of emotions that people endure. There is an album for every kind of experience from heart break to healing. And although Sia is more involved in the creativity and quality of her work than the analyzation of it, a close friend of hers gave a nice overview of her records over the years. His interpretation of her latest release is pretty spot on. “I would never describe my work, but this friend that has known me this whole time, the other day told me he did a little bit of analyzing. And I thought it was actually really interesting because I never really thought about it. He said with this last one- this one is just like saying good bye to all that history and like walking away from shit stuff and walking towards good stuff. He said with this album there was a kind of serenity about it. “

There is serenity to Some People Have Real Problems and that is because Sia is in a place where she is ready to embark on new adventures and embrace exciting changes. She is exactly what modern pop music has needed these last few years. Her sound is palatable enough for a wide array of audiences, but still maintains a level of artistic integrity and quirkiness that allows her to remain real to her fans. Her experiences, but more importantly her choices, have lead her to the path she is on now. And if she ever had the chance to go back in time and impart a bit of wisdom to her younger self, a more insightful Sia would simply say, “Do it all exactly the same.”

–Brigitte B. Zabak for Amplifier Magazine

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