Sia sings '1000 Forms of Fear' without facing cameras
By Mikael Wood, Los Angeles Times/MCT
July 21, 2014, 12:00 am TWN
By the standards of late-night television, the performance is pretty odd.
Sia, the pop singer with one of the summer's biggest hits in "Chandelier," delivers her song lying face-down on a bunk bed while "Girls" star Lena Dunham, wearing a platinum-blond wig, mouths the lyrics and flings herself around a stage. Eventually, Dunham climbs onto the bed and straddles Sia, who never shows her face to the camera.
Hardly protocol for a pop act looking to hype her latest work. But the bit, broadcast last month on "Late Night With Seth Meyers" and since viewed more than 1 million times on YouTube, was firmly in keeping with the unorthodox rollout of Sia's new album, "1000 Forms of Fear."
A key element in the campaign is the music video for "Chandelier," a visual stunner built not around Sia but 11-year-old Maddie Ziegler of the reality TV show "Dance Moms." And a performance on "Ellen" had Sia standing with her back to the audience.
The 38-year-old singer hasn't done many interviews; she's done even fewer photo shoots.
Yet at a time when the prevailing promotional mantra appears to be "More is more," Sia's relatively reserved approach is paying off: On Wednesday, "1000 Forms of Fear" entered Billboard's album chart at No. 1.
"Woah," she tweeted after the chart news broke, "I can't believe this experiment worked."
Born in Australia and now based in Los Angeles, Sia (whose last name is Furler) first drew widespread attention in the early 2000s as a member of the electro-soul group Zero 7; her solo career later took off after her song "Breathe Me" was featured in the final episode of HBO's "Six Feet Under."
But as she explained last year in a so-called "anti-fame manifesto" published in Billboard, Sia soon tired of the public scrutiny that accompanies celebrity in the age of TMZ.
"Imagine the stereotypical ... mother-in-law character ... criticizing you for an hour straight once a day, every day, day after day," wrote the artist, who's also described struggling with addiction.
So Sia turned to writing songs for others — and quickly established herself as a go-to source of sticky hooks and lyrics about overcoming emotional hardship. Among the hits she helped create: Rihanna's "Diamonds," Beyonce's "Pretty Hurts" and "Titanium" by the French DJ David Guetta, who ended up using Sia's demo vocals on the finished track instead of a performance he'd solicited from Mary J. Blige.
She decided to make another album of her own, her first since "We Are Born" in 2010, only after being "pushed into it," according to her manager, Jonathan Daniel.