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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Sia: "Some People Have Real Problems"

It doesn't seem like too long ago that I was raving about Sia's most recent album, Colour the Small One, when in reality it was almost 2 years ago that I first heard the album. It was released overseas 2 years prior to that. So for all those Sia fans out there who have been clamoring for some new solo material since 2004, rejoice! Your day has arrived! Some People Have Real Problems is a very different album than Sia's last. Where Colour the Small One, made it's mark with somber, inventive pop songs, this album is much more upfront, energetic, and vocally driven. Sia has seemingly transformed herself from a niche vocalist into someone that the mainstream can't possibly turn away from.

The album's first track is "Little Black Sandals," a song that is extremely reminiscent of the music found on Colour the Small One (one of only two songs that can make such a claim). It tells the story of Sia escaping a troublesome, if not unhealthy relationship. In the chorus, she sings "These little black sandals are walking me away. These little black sandals saved my life today," in a very understated manner. In the last verse she gives us a hint of what is to come on the album by soulfully, and earnestly crying, "He was the line between pleasure and pain, but me and the feet have some years to reclaim!"

The soulful Sia takes over from here, and she rarely lets up through the remainder of the album. "Lentil," which many will remember from her Lady Croissant live album, is an absolutely beautiful track. The lyrics here are touching to say the least. In the chorus she belts, "I never meant to let you down. I'm trying not to fall apart" with such passion that goosebumps are almost assured. In the final, triumphant chorus, she's singing with enough gusto to make Christina Aguilera hide in a closet and assume the fetal position. "Day Too Soon" is a bit jazzier than its predecessor, and is about finally finding the right man ("I've been waiting all my life. You're not a day too soon."), which I assume is a great joy.

"You Have Been Loved" is yet another great song, but at times it seems as if Sia is injecting a bit too much soul into her voice. Her voice cracks and whimpers several times in the song, and while it adds to the song, it can also be a bit distracting. Which brings me to my first complaint about Some People Have Real Problems. Sia is taking a more soulful approach to singing this time around, and after a while it starts to wear on me. After 4 or 5 songs you start to wonder if she'll ever start singing in an understated manner again. It's not bad by any means, but a little more vocal variety would be appreciated.

And sure enough, she delivers. "The Girl You Lost to Cocaine" is an absolute blast to listen and sing along to. Sia songs have always been very "ballad-y." But this songs is reminiscent of "Where I Belong" in that it is a fun, upbeat track. Again she discusses walking away from a stale relationship, singing, "I can't survive with you by my side. See, I'll never get laid while I'm running your life." Ha! "Academia" is another peculiar song. The lyrics are quirky, to be sure, and Sia smartly sings them like a little girl. It works mostly due to it's quirkiness (though I was distracted at first because it's the exact same chord progression to the bridge of St. Vincent's "Jesus Saves, I Spend"). Speaking of exactness, "I Go to Sleep" is a cover of a song by The Pretenders. So if you're a fan of them, I recommend it. Sia puts a nice spin on it.

"Playground" once again pumps up the quirkiness, along with some truly cool production (it sounds kind of like a Psapp song). Sia calmly states, "I don't wanna grow old, bring me all the toys you can find. You don't want to grow up, you can be my partner in crime." Cute. "Death by Chocolate" is a brilliantly written song where Sia returns to a more soulful, gospel style of singing. When she sings, "Death my chocolate is a myth, this I know because I lived," I can't help but think of "The Church of What's Happening Now" when she says, "I'm going to eat one hundred sweets." I guess she did. And this brings me to my favorite song on the album, "Soon We'll Be Found," in which Sia describes the scene of a couple fighting, and losing sleep. Her voice is perfectly suited to this song, and every time she sings "Let's not fight. I'm sorry, can't we just sleep tonight?" my heart breaks. As emo as that sounds, it's true. It is an absolutely gorgeous song!

And now for my second complaint about Some People Have Real Problems: it is far too long of an album. At nearly an hour in length, even the good songs start to wear on you. The next three songs("Electric Bird," "Beautiful Calm Driving" (which is very reminiscent of Colour the Small One), " and "Lullaby") are all beautiful songs and worth of being heard, but by the time you get to them you've probably lost interest. Granted, if you're one of those people who listen to an album a few songs at a time, it probably won't bother you. But if you're like me, and you like listening to albums as a whole, this can be a little disheartening. In my opinion, "Soon We'll Be Found" would have been an excellent closer. Oh well. Because in the end, I can't be too disappointed by something that is as beautiful and refreshing as Some People Have Real Problems. Sia has blown me away! Just when I thought I'd heard everything she had to offer, she completely transforms herself into a soulful pop diva, a force to be reckoned with. It may throw off some longtime fans, but sometimes grandiose greatness does that.

Recommended for fans of Sia, and for anyone who ever thought Christina Aguilera's songs were good.

Key Tracks:
1. "Lentil"
2. "Day Too Soon"
3. "The Girl You Lost to Cocaine"
4. "Academia"
5. "Soon We'll Be Found"

8 out of 10 Stars


Abzdragon said...

Weird I just read this... I downloaded that CD last night :)

Cale said...

What can I say? I'm on top of things! :D