released June 22nd, 2010

from the album - The Fight

from all music

Although raised in Australia, Sia Furler rose to fame after moving to the U.K., where she worked as a guest vocalist for several groups including the electronica duo Zero 7 and released her own solo albums. Born in 1975, she first performed on the Adelaide jazz circuit during the '90s as a vocalist for the band Crisp. An attempt to launch a solo career in 1997 didn't pan out, though, and the blonde, blue-eyed antipodean eventually hopped on a plane to London. While there, she landed a gig as a backup singer for Jamiroquai and inked a solo contract with DancePool, a sublabel of Sony.

Sia released her first single, "Taken for Granted," in early 2000. Although the song only peaked at number 100 on the Australian charts, it rose to number ten in the U.K. and increased European demand for her debut album, Hearing Is Difficult, which followed in 2001. At the same time, a string of big names in the British music scene began asking for Sia's services; offers from Massive Attack, Zero 7, and William Orbit ensued. Although some projects only called for Sia to sing on one song, her association with Zero 7 proved to be a recurring thing. She ultimately remained with Zero 7 for three albums, serving as the group's go-to vocalist while also furthering her own career with solo releases like Colour the Small One and Some People Have Real Problems.

Meanwhile, Sia also began building an audience in America. One of the songs from Colour the Small One, "Breathe Me," gained attention when it was used in the elaborate final scene of the Six Feet Under series, and the resulting buzz allowed her to enjoy a successful stateside tour. That tour was documented on her first live release, Lady Croissant, in 2007. By the following year, Sia's American audience had increased to the point that Some People Have Real Problems, her third album, debuted at number 26.

Zero 7 began working on another album in 2009, but Sia had already shifted most of her attention to furthering her own career, and the band hired another singer in her place. Working alongside bassist Sam Dixon, she boosted her songwriting cred by writing several songs for Christina Aguilera, who put the songs onto her 2010 release Bionic. Sia also continued writing songs for herself, and We Are Born marked her most upbeat album to date in 2010.

album review

If Some People Have Real Problems, upon its 2008 release, felt like Sia's "pop move," its warmly personable brew of mellow coffee shop soul offering a more approachable contrast to the sober soundtrack-fodder chill-out with which she and in particular, her increasingly ubiquitous, jazzily innocuous voice had become near-synonymous, what can we make of We Are Born? With this, her fourth proper album, recorded for yet another new label (pop/hip-hop titan Jive), the Australian singer has made a massive pop leap: a sunshiny, highly caffeinated set of frothy dance tracks and feel-good lite-funk. And it's a great look. It's hard not to smile in agreement when she sings, in the tremendously hooky chorus to the irresistible, disco-fied first single (a revamped Lauren Flax collaboration): "You've changed... for the better!" As Sia tells it, it's less that she's changed than that she's finally made the album she'd been itching to make for years, the catalysts including her increased distance from the evidently dictatorial market forces of downtempo and her recent romantic linkage with DJ JD Sampson (Le Tigre, MEN). Unexpected though the shift may seem, it still feels like an entirely comfortable one, a liberating opportunity to revel in the natural exuberance she's always held in check. It's a treat, then, but hardly a surprise, to hear how well Sia works her ever-expressive pipes in full-on club-diva mode, as on the aforementioned single and the equally delightful "The Fight." She displays impressive vocal versatility throughout, cooing and crowing like vintage Gwen Stefani on the awesomely ska-punky "Bring Night"; drawing on her reserve stock of quavering Winehouse-isms for the blue-eyed R&B of "Be Good to Me"; getting throaty on the decidedly emo piano ballad "I'm in Here," which recalls any number of tortured '90s alt-rock songstresses (ditto her extravagant take on Madonna's "Oh Father.") Much as her vocal flexibility lets Sia navigate a considerable array of pop styles with nary a hitch, her solid songwriting chops find her fully satisfying the conventions of each form she tackles, albeit rarely transcending them. Meanwhile Greg Kurstin, by now a past master of breezy, contemporary, grown-up girl pop production, supplies a likable balance of gloss and glitter, with plenty of fun, playful touches (toy pianos, synthesized orchestra bells, kids voices.) While We Are Born occasionally lapses into the anodyne, overly tasteful pop-folk balladeering of Sia's past, overall it's a charmingly cheery, light-hearted romp looking nowhere but sweetly, sanguinely forward.

Track Listing

1 The Fight Carey, Furler 3:39
2 Clap Your Hands Dixon, Furler 3:58
3 Stop Trying Furler, Kurstin 2:40
4 You've Changed Flax, Furler 3:11
5 Be Good to Me Furler, Graham, Katz 3:56
6 Bring Night Furler, Kurstin 2:57
7 Hurting Me Now Furler, Kurstin 3:26
8 Never Gonna Leave Me Furler, Kurstin 3:34
9 Cloud Dixon, Furler 3:43
10 I'm in Here Dixon, Furler 3:41
11 The Co-Dependent Furler, Kurstin 2:55
12 Big Girl Little Girl Binns, Furler 4:18
13 Oh Father Madonna, Raymond 4:29
14 I'm in Here Dixon, Furler 3:46