5 Day Advent of Songs – Day 2 – Sia

sia

Santa’s Coming For Us (S Furler/G Kurstin) and Candy Cane Lane (S Furler/G Kurstin) and Underneath The Christmas Lights (S Furler/G Kurstin) – Sia 2017

Sia Furler is one of Australia’s most successful singer-songwriters of the past decade, her output has been prodigious with nine studio albums, six live albums, 66 singles (including 22 as a featured artist) and she has personally collaborated on hit songs with such artists as David Guetta, Kendrick Lamar, Sean Paul, Lior, Eminem, Flo Rider, The Hilltop Hoods and written hits for Beyonce, Katy Perry, Britney Spears, Rihanna, Christina Aguilera, Kylie Minogue, and many others. Below Sia with Beyonce and Jay Z.

delta110

In 2017 after a six-year chart blitz that yielded the million-selling albums 1,000 Forms of Fear and This Is Acting, and the hit singles Take For Granted, Chandelier, Elastic Heart and Cheap Thrills, she chose to put her chart-topping stamp on Christmas with an album of original songs entitled Everyday Is Christmas, which featured Sia’s frequent dance collaborator, Maddie Ziegler on the cover artwork. 

phil spector

Working with her long-time collaborator Greg Kurstin Sia’s mission was to re-invent contemporary holiday music without simply re-hashing the hits of the past, but by returning to the sounds of the 50’s and 60’s, where a particular inspiration was Phil Spector’s seminal yuletide album A Christmas Gift For You from Phil Spector. She then transformed the DNA of many of those songs into relatable contemporary classics in the unmistakeably idiosyncratic Sia Furler style, about which she tends to be disarmingly dismissive “It’s not like you have to have an original idea to begin with…It’s like, Christmas, mistletoe, ho-ho-ho, Santa Clause, Christmas list, elves…”.

sia1

The album certainly runs the stylistic gamut from up tempo jams, to Motown-inspired R&B, and several seasonal ballads. The first single released was Santa’s Coming For Us, a jazzy jam of a record reminiscent of previous Sia hits like Chandelier and Cheap Thrills, rife with brass – trumpet, trombone, and saxophone by David Ralicke – and bass, drums, guitar, piano and sleigh bells by multi-instrumentalist producer Greg Kurstin. A reggae-tinged beat pulsed in the background and delivered a great new Christmas classic. The song’s retro video featured real-life celebrity couple Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard hosting a Christmas party, Henry “The Fonz” Winkler and All My Children actress Susan Lucci feature as the grandparents, while comedian J.B.Smoove was the titular Santa, it charted #1 on the US Adult Contemporary charts, #1 in Canada, #4 in NZ, and #17 in the UK.

A joyous Christmas music video from Sia.

Sia’s Christmas valentine to Phil Spector was Candy Cane Lane, a song that dialled up the cuteness factor amidst a wall of sound of bass, piano, guitar, drums, and vibraphone (mellow-sounding xylophone), while the music vid used snowy claymation animation to pit a child-like Sia and her dog, both with signature face-obscuring hairstyles, against a bothersome snow gremlin. who avoided Sia’s snare of Christmas lights, leaving nothing more than a trail of snowflakes in his wake.

sia7

But this was only part one of a trilogy which was continued in the music vid for Ho, Ho, Ho, another track off Sia’s album. Sia ventures to the snow monster’s icy dwelling on the other side of the woods, and instead of being frightened by the monster’s scare tactics she “breaks the ice” with him by being playful, and this melts his heart, the two become friends and Sia realises that the monster’s apparent grumpiness conceals his inner pain and loneliness, and caused the lights to go out in his life.

sia6

In part three, which animates the song Underneath The Mistletoe, Sia returns to her home and the snow monster misses her and builds a snowy effigy of his new friend, but soon realises that imitations are no substitute for the real thing. They travel back to Sia’s home but realise they cannot live together, but the snow monster now knows that he can’t numb his loneliness with false versions of life, and that is the catalyst that pulls him out of his “frozen” prison and into a healthier environment.  A nice message for Christmas don’t you think?  After two years of COVID-19 we all need some R&R in Candy Cane Lane, 11.2 million YouTube viewers thought so too.

A claymation trilogy of stories that uses subtle animation to espouse feelings of empathy, understanding, and friendship, at Christmas.

The closing album track was Underneath the Christmas Lights, a dramatic secular ballad sung with the reverence and hymnal piety usually reserved for songs like Ave Maria. Sia’s soft vocals and intonation create the intimacy and ambience of a church choir and Greg Kurstin on piano and mellotron (individual musical tapes on playback- Strawberry Fields Forever, Space Oddity, etc), contributed to one of the best tracks on the album, that should have been released as a single, 5 million YouTube views and counting. The album Everyday Is Christmas was a hit too, top ten in six European countries, #7 Aust, #8 Canada, #27 USA Billboard, and #39 UK.    

Sia’s idiosyncratic vocal style tends to mask the great quality of her voice, shown to great effect on Underneath the Christmas Lights.

sia5

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s