We take a deep dive into the history of Australian icon Sia, who elevated to international success with her sixth album in 2014, and a brand-new look that became instantly recognisable.
Sia Kate Isobelle Furler, better known as Sia, has been celebrated across the entire globe as the enigmatic superstar with the iconic fringe. She never shows her face, she never ditches the blonde bangs over the eyes and she rarely does press. Also, she is never without her trusty accomplice Maddy Ziegler, her dancer who she discovered on Dance Moms.
Most people would recognise Sia from her established hits: your classic ‘Titanium’ or ‘Chandelier’ chart-toppers, but what most people forget to remember is that both of these songs came after Sia announced her retirement from singing in late 2010.
Before this however, Sia was a woman with an incredible voice and an even more incredible discography, who was making the music she loved for her Australian fanbase, never dreaming of taking over the world with her impeccable pop-stylings and polarising visual appearance.
WATCH: Sia – ‘Chandelier’
Five albums deep and struggling with the nature of her rising fame after the release of We Are Born, Sia began to make it very clear to press (in the very few interviews she did at the time), that she was starting to turn to alcohol and drugs to cope with her changing surroundings.
She even mentioned (in the interview linked below) that she considered suicide during this time in her life, going as far as to write out a suicide note.
This is all made clear in an exclusive interview with The New York Times, which labelled her as the “socially-phobic pop star”.
In the interview Sia stated: “I just wanted to have a private life. Once, as my friend was telling me they had cancer, someone came up and asked, in the middle of the conversation, if they could take a photograph with me. You get me? That’s enough, right?”
Thus began the early beginnings of Sia’s inclinations towards hiding away her face. Masks were used in concerts, backs were turned to the audience. However, before we got to this point, Sia was unabashedly present in her performances and appearances, with an absolute treasure trove of hits behind her, that have since been lost to time.
WATCH: Sia’s big reveal on Ellen
Performing back-up vocals for Jamiroquai and leading her very own trio in the form of Zero 7, it wasn’t until Sia’s second solo album Healing is Difficult came out that she truly became a name that people would begin to recognise. Blending retro jazz with soul music under the colourful ribbon of her usual pop inclinations, Sia stepped out into the spotlight with ‘Taken for Granted’, a song which peaked at No. 10 on the UK Singles Charts at the time.
Now, this was 20 whole years ago, but it was arguably the most important moment in Sia’s early career. With Healing is Difficult, the album on which ‘Taken for Granted’ was the lead single, Sia showed off her impeccable talent for song writing (which would become a skill that would elevate her career later on).
Lyrics dealt with pain, loss and the death of Sia’s first real love affair. The project showed that as an artist, Sia was not afraid to delve deep into her own psyche to offer up ballads of raw honesty.
STREAM: Sia – Healing is Difficult
This period was also when Sia would change hands between labels, constantly dissatisfied with how she was being treated by companies such as Sony Music and Go! Beat (a subsidiary of Universal Music Group).
In 2008, Sia released her fourth studio album, the next big milestone in her early career that would eventually lead to her achieving mass amounts of fame worldwide. Some People Have Real Problems, with its lead single ‘The Girl You Lost to Cocaine’, was yet another showcase of Sia’s extraordinary writing talents.
It doesn’t take much investigation to understand that this lead single dealt with themes of drug abuse and addiction, something that at the time was still quite taboo in music.
The single was the pinnacle of everything we love Sia for today, and cements the fact that as an artist, Sia hasn’t changed, she’s only gotten better. The song fuses playful pop tendencies that were rampant in the late 2000’s, yet when blended with Sia’s unique voice, it creates pure magic.
Catching word of Sia’s incredible writing skills, Christina Aguilera approached her in 2009 to write ballads for her hit album Bionic. This was the first real example of Sia utilising her skills for an artist that was constantly on the charts, and only elevated her image in the eyes of other pop stars looking to make hits. The knack for perfect earworms was always alive inside Sia, we were just late to notice.
WATCH: Sia – ‘The Girl You Lost’
Now we reach the apex of Sia’s pre-1000 Forms of Fear career, and the moments which drove her to give that New York Times interview as seen above. In 2010, she released her critically acclaimed album We Are Born, the first album in her career which not only reaped awards, but also had all eyes on it with its hit single ‘Clap Your Hands’. A departure from her usual writing style, the song was an absolute pop classic straight out of the gate, and gained Sia fans from all across the world.
At the ARIA Music Awards of 2010, We Are Born earned Sia two categories won: Best Independent Release and Best Pop Release. Meanwhile, at the 2011 APRA Music Awards, Sia received a nomination for Song of the Year for ‘Clap Your Hands’.
With the success of We Are Born, Sia was able to tour North America, Europe and of course Australia, meaning the amount of recognition she would receive on the road was also at an all-time high.
Thus, Sia announced her retirement from singing, vowing to only write songs for other artists. It wasn’t until ‘Titanium’ featuring David Guetta that Sia decided to get back into singing, and the rest is the history we know.
Originally written for Alicia Keys, the song was never meant to feature Sia, but Guetta decided to utilise Sia’s demo recordings of the song since he preferred them. This itself launched Sia into her breakthrough new singing career, and lead to the release of her first album in four years.
Ultimately, before the costumes and the antics and the media scrutiny, Sia was a homegrown legend who barely ever received the credit she deserves. She has achieved so much across the globe that sometimes its easy to forget that she is Australian in the first place, but maybe that’s because we never paid her the attention she deserved when she was based here, making moves that very few were noticing.
Sia was always incredible at everything she did, crafting some of pop’s most essential ballads for others and making some of the most heartbreaking and riveting music under her own name for multiple years. As she continues to succeed in the music industry, even bigger than ever, we won’t ever forget her humble beginnings, and will still blast ‘The Girl You Lost to Cocaine’ to this day.