ARTIST OF THE MONTH: SIA | WE ARE BORN (2010)
On Sia’s fifth studio album, "We Are Born," released on June 18, 2010, the Australian chanteuse switches gears from her more sombre early work and creates an infectiously happy dance-pop album. Many factors are contributing to the album’s lighthearted happiness. Furler was in a serious relationship with JD Samson (of Le Tigre), which they later broke up in 2011. She was inspired by her icons Cyndi Lauper and Madonna; Dan Carey co-wrote the songs; Nick Valensi (The Strokes) plays electric guitar; and the album was produced by Greg Kurstin, who’s produced similarly energetic albums for the likes of Lily Allen. From its insanely catchy first single, “Clap Your Hands,” to the dance command “Bright Night,” this is an album for happy times. Better still, this album creates happy times as Sia cuts her teeth on a jangly record, unlike anything she developed during her days with Zero 7.
While the music seems tailor-made for Sia’s voice, it’s that distinctive voice that drives the album. Moreover, Sia’s delivery of her endlessly melodic lyrics sets her apart from many of her contemporaries. While some songs fall victim to a formula of speak-singing verses and soaring choruses (even “Clap Your Hands” and the album opener, “The Fight”), that formula works and even lends this record a cohesive quality it might otherwise lack. The downside to that is such cohesiveness can also make for monotony, and by the time listeners get to the ninth track, “Cloud,” the formula is old, and there is a thirst for greater variety and fresher sounding songs.
Sia’s tip of her hat to Madonna and Lauper is evident throughout the album, particularly on “Never Gonna Leave Me,” which could easily be a lost ’80s track. The same could be said for the most rocking song, “Bright Night.” with its hand-clap synths and electric guitar fun, this is another track full of ’80s glory. Sia even covers Madonna’s “O Father,” though it, unfortunately, falls flat due to sentimental music and surprisingly delicate vocals. Though this album is bombastic enough that “understated” is a relative term, the understated tracks are some of the most successful “Be Good to Me,” in which Sia channels Amy Winehouse, is more of a ballad. It helps showcase the more gravelly end of Furler’s powerful pipes. “Codependent,” while still an eighties-inflected dance song, is still a refreshing change from the formula which informs much of the album. An album highlight, “I’m In Here,” is classic Sia, her slow, warbling voice in its traditional form.
"We Are Born" doesn’t have the warm, crazy aura of its predecessor, “ Some People Have Real Problems.” Fortunately, Sia continues to do without superficial frills. It is precisely the fact that she is still cultivating her charming neuroses, albeit more domestically, that sets the album apart from the mass of pop records with a dancing attitude. Despite the pipe-cleaners and bubble-gum pink of its cover and children's school-yard voices in the opener, never fear as this album is not all primary colours and highlighter pens. It has brains behind its catchy beats and synths.