ARTIST OF THE MONTH: SIA | HEALING IS DIFFICULT (2002)
Even though Zero 7 has enlisted the abilities of the Australian-born vocalist and writer, there is a bigger and better reason to be excited about Sia Furler, namely her debut album "Healing Is Difficult." This combination of R&B, two-step and jazz flavours provides a backdrop for one of the most exciting voices to have emerged in the last decade. Before the album's release, "Taken For Granted" crashed the charts at number 10, and "Little Man" had the overhaul from UK garage star Wookie and sold 10,000 white labels to the dance music underground. With the full showcase available, Sia has pulled a handbrake turn and skidded neatly into the space that year's diva.
The title of this album is not without good reason, as Sia's past has been a trying one, with the tragic loss of a partner and subsequent grieving providing the basis and catalyst for much of the writing. From the outset, we are exposed to a brutal honesty as the opening track, "Fear," confesses, 'And sometimes I worry my boyfriend will die, my first love is already dead. You see, fear is only holding us back. Complementary to this, the hip-hop beats of "Taken For Granted" have been layered over Prokofiev's 'Romeo and Juliet' - whether this choice reflects a darker irony and further meditation on the subject only adds to the track's charisma and appeal. However bold, her sensitivity never descends to self-depreciation or pity; in fact, it is tempered with a well-developed sense of humour - a natural extension of her playful nature. Mindset aside, it is the delivery that singles Sia out. Her range and versatility across the album mark her as being both natural and at ease in a jazz mode, "Drink To Get Drunk," as well as downtempo in the seductive R&B ballad "Blow It All Away." That said, the high vocal power on the exceptional "Judge Me" proves she can belt it out with the best of them.
Aside from her only U.K. Top Ten hit, Australian chanteuse Sia's first major~label release, "Healing Is Difficult," is perhaps the most under-appreciated and ignored of her critically acclaimed career, coming years before her "Six Feet Under" assisted U.S. breakthrough, and just a little too early to capitalize on the word of mouth success of the Zero 7 debut she provided vocals for. It's a shame that more of her ever-growing fan base hasn't been inspired to check the disc out; the New Jack Swing beats and tinny strings of the All Saints~esque "Get Me" and the meandering drum‘n'bass~tinged "Judge Me" haven't aged particularly well, so this is perhaps her most personal and emotional record to date.