Sia – Ho Ho Ho

“Why the FLIPPING HECK wasn’t this the lead on the album?”

Tom: A whole album. A whole Christmas album. Why. Why would anyone bother to do that, other than as a cheap cash-in?

Tim: I don’t know, I mean she’s certainly not the first artist to do that – Kylie Minogue, Gwen Stefani and Kelly Clarkson are three that immediately spring to mind. The only difference here is that all ten tracks are original, and to be honest I’d say that’s almost something to be applauded, rather than labelled “cheap cash-in”.

But anyway, I was playing yesterday’s track while writing about it, and I saw this in YouTube’s sidebar, and much as I didn’t enjoy her Christmas offering we featured last week, I figured I’d give this one the benefit of the doubt. Can’t be much worse, can it?

Tim: OH BLOODY HELL that’s good, and why the FLIPPING HECK wasn’t this the lead on the album?

Tom: First things first, I’ma say all the words inside my head“. Sorry, what were you saying?

Tim: Oh, GOD, that’s what it reminds me of, AARGH. But beside that, it’s fun, it’s got a great video (albeit not one that bears any relation whatsoever to the song), and it starts off requesting alcohol. Because yes, Christmas is indeed about having parties, getting pissed, and so what if people are misfits? Let’s all get together and have a good time. But most importantly of all: this is a modern track.

Tom: I mean, yes, but I’m having trouble coming up with anything interesting to say about it. It’s just… I think I’m starting to get burned out on Sia’s voice singing about Christmas.

Tim: It’s a song that’s not far off what I’d expect Sia to produce on a standard day. It’s just great, and so, so much better than that other one.

Tom: Imagine if all the effort for the album had gone into one spectacular track instead.

Tim: Hmm. Okay, maybe you have a point there.

Sia – Santa’s Coming For Us

“I don’t want to press play on a new Sia track and hear a jazz track from last century.”

Tim: Well, that’s an ominous title.

Tom: Blimey, it is and all, isn’t it? Anyway, as I mentioned the other day, Sia’s got a Christmas album out, and here’s the lead single from it.

Tom: Full marks for a video where I said “wait, is that…” multiple times.

Tim: Now, I hate – absolutely despise – the fact that in terms of classic Christmas songs, and as we found out with Avril Lavigne, America has never really got past the 1950s. White Christmas, Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, Baby It’s Cold Outside, It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year, all stuck in the middle of last century, and so a massive, massive proportion of modern Christmas songs over there feel they have to take that sound and run with it.

In Britain we got a resurgence in the 70’s and 80’s and now pretty much anything goes; Scandinavia’s got people chucking out new ones every year as a matter of course; but America’s never properly moved on. I don’t want to press play on a new Sia track and hear a jazz track from last century, with a video that’s seemingly designed to look like a 1980s sitcom, I want a modern track.

Tom: The 1980s sitcom, I don’t mind, I think this is actually a bit more modern than you give it credit for — I think you may have just forgotten that “last century” is now 17 years ago.

Tim: No, but this is 1950s stuff. I also want more that just one line repeated six times in the chorus – man, Sia’s meant to be one of the greatest songwriter’s around right now, so why have Hanson – bloody Hanson – managed to produce a better track?

Tom: And there you’ve got a very strong point. The phrase “cynical cash-in” is wafting through the air somewhere, but I couldn’t possibly comment.

Sia – Rainbow

“Well, that went a bit Mr Tumble.”

Tim: So, the Trolls movie gave us the perfection that is Can’t Stop The Feeling.

Tom: Which was a grower: I remember listening to Justin Timberlake at Eurovision and thinking “aw, man, why did he have to bring the new stuff”? And then.

Tim: And then indeed. Question for today, though: will we get anything as good from the My Little Pony movie?

Tom: The what now.

Tim: You heard.

Tom: Well, that went a bit Mr Tumble. That’s not just a lazy “kids show” joke, genuinely all I can hear in that chorus is the nursery rhyme.

Tim: Yeah, there’s not a lot to love, is there? I mean, it’s Sia, so it’s never going to be an entirely bad track, but I can’t help thinking that the ponies prancing around with their “YASS QUEEN” attitude is the most entertaining part of that video. It’s a decent chorus, sure – again, it’s Sia, so anything that makes prominent use of her vocal is going to sound fantastic. But as for what it does with that voice…ehh, not so much, sadly.

Tom: It’s a Generic Movie Song. Very few artists bring their A-game to that, unless it’s a Bond theme. This is not a Bond theme.

ZAYN feat. Sia – Dusk Till Dawn

“Way, way above most of the other ex-One Direction singles.”

Tom: Time for an unnecessarily dramatic video. (Perhaps he’s envious of Harry Styles’ turn on Dunkirk.)

I reckon that, when it gets to the chorus, you’re going to go “oh,” and then one or two beats later go “oh!”

Tim: On count 1: yes, that really is unnecessarily dramatic, though it is quite fun. Count 2: yes, pretty much. Chorus starts okay, and suddenly becomes GREAT.

Tom: I’ll be honest, that “ee-ee-ee-ee” bit in the chorus doesn’t work for me, which means there’s no way I could give this track full marks: but it’s still definitely a cut above most of the other ex-One Direction singles.

Tim: Oh, way, way above them, as I have a massive amount of time for this. Sure, the ee-ee-ee-ee is possibly a slight irritant that detracts from the rest, but it’s still damn good.

Tom: There’s a lot going on here — possibly too much. And it’s possibly a poor choice to use Sia just for backup vocals: that voice deserves to at least have a bit of a solo.

Tim: Quite pleasing how much we’re agreeing here – I too found it weird that she’s only there to directly duet, there’s no variation from Zayn’s line to hers.

Tom: But still, as Credible Big Pop Tracks go, Zayn could be doing a lot worse.

Tim: Much, much worse.

Sia feat. Labrinth – To Be Human

“Love comes with pain, deal with it.”

Tim: With Wonder Woman, Warner Bros. finally created something a lot of people had forgotten was possible: a happy, enjoyable and flipping brilliant DC film. As for the soundtrack that goes with it, I had high expectations as her theme was one of the occasional good things about Batman v Superman. But the proper song that goes with it?

Tim: Well, happy certainly wouldn’t be the perfect word to describe this, portraying as it seems to the idea that love comes with pain, deal with it.

Tom: From your introduction, I was expecting to go in and dislike this… but it’s good. I’m not sold on all of it; that middle eight sounds like it’s come from an old musical, and it’s just confusing. But that chorus — and the transition into it — are beautiful. Not happy, though.

Tim: On the other hand, I’d say enjoyable fits the bill, for a lot of it: Sia’s as on point with the vocals as you’d expect…

Tom: Although it did take me a little while to work out what she was singing. Her initial vocals seem to be a bit… maybe slurred is the wrong word, but certainly unclear, more so than I’d expect from her. Labrinth very much playing second fiddle, but that’s fine: no-one’s going to beat Sia, and he’s providing a damn good harmony.

Tim: The emotion’s layered on up to eleven – though having said that, my favourite moment of it, the bit that sent shivers through me, has no singing at all. It’s there towards the end, just as the final chorus comes to a close and the instrumental climbs back up again. I love that, and it made me realise how good the underlying instrumental is on the rest of the track. That’s the real thing that makes this sound so good. And it does sound so good.

Stargate – Waterfall feat. Pink, Sia

“…oh. Really disappointing.”

Tom: Yep, you’re reading that right. Stargate finally decided to get their own credit instead of just producing other people’s songs, so this must be a banger. And they’ve got two of the greatest contemporary female vocalists to perform on it. This is going to be…

Tom: …oh. Really disappointing.

Tim: Isn’t it just? So much potential, and yet I get so little from it.

Tom: I mean, the video’s amazing, freefall dance is something that hasn’t had much exposure, and it’s shot beautifully. But what’s with everything else?

“I’m in your waterfall”. Yes. We get it. We got it by about thirty seconds in, with that bizarre choice to half-sing, half-mutter the last line of the endlessly repetitive chorus, as if no-one could be bothered with it. Stargate featured these incredible singers, and this is what they ask them to perform?

Tim: It’s little short of bizarre, really – not least that Sia and Pink got behind the microphones and thought “yep, I want to sing this”. It’s not terrible, it’s just really, really not using what’s there.

Tom: And as for all the guff behind the vocals: well, can I suggest that Stargate are much better at production than they are at picking songs to release?

Tim: Yes, yes you can. And you should.

Saturday Flashback: Sia – Fire Meet Gasoline

“Damn, that similarity is annoying.”

Tim: I heard this a few days ago and thought “oh, I’ve not heard this in ages, I love this song”. Except it was only released as a single in Germany, and was tucked way down at the bottom of the album, so I’ve probably never heard it before. I’ve heard a different song, though.

Tim: Because Tom, tell me there aren’t multiple occasions in that song where you want to sing along with “Everywhere I’m looking now”.

Tom: I was originally going to say “I think it did get some radio airplay over here”, but now I’m not entirely sure that I wasn’t just hearing Halo instead.

Tim: IT’S THE SAME SONG. Well, alright, it isn’t, it’s just a fairly similar lead into the chorus, and actually it’s a brilliant song showing Sia right at the very top of her game. But damn, that Halo similarity is annoying. And I just thought I’d point it out to see if I’m alone.

Tom: Don’t worry, you’re not.

Tim: Good good. Oh, and while we’re here, a hugely tenuously linked fact: Ryan Tedder, co-writer of Halo, has over 92,000 unread emails in his inbox, which to be honest would give me a nervous breakdown.

Tom: How on earth do you know that?

Tim: I’d rather not go into it here.

Sia – Cheap Thrills

“My first thought was kazoo”

Tom: Our reader, Russell, sends this in, adding: “The song takes a break from Sia’s typical soulful vocals and meaningful lyrics – this song focusses on fun and partying. Perhaps it could be pandering to the general population, but even if it is, I still like it.”

Tom: Mm. There’s a good song somewhere in here, but I think it’s drowned out by an instrumentation choice that sounds like an insect trapped in a bottle. (Synth? Modified vocal? Lesser-known instrument? No idea.)

Tim: Yeah, that is weird – my first thought was kazoo, however unlikely that might be. Mind you, if this face is what Sia’s been hiding from us all these years, then relative likelihood goes out of the window.

Tom: And it doesn’t help that some of the melody — coincidentally, given the timing — is uncomfortably close to the verse in Ariana Grande’s latest.

Tim: RUNNING OUT OF MUSIC, Tom.

Tom: “I love cheap thrills” is a pretty good shoutalong chant; the melody’s pretty good; the vocals are, of course, great. But the whole package just isn’t up to much.

Tim: Nope – and with both Bang My Head and Alive still doing the rounds on radio stations, this really doesn’t stick out that well.

David Guetta feat. Sia & Fetty Wap – Bang My Head

“Fetty Wap is a ridiculous name”

Tim: Last time David Guetta & Sia teamed up, we got the immortal Titanium; how will this measure up?

Tim: Well for start it’d be nice if we could bin off that ludicrously named Fetty Wap, because what we have from the other two is the duly expected excellence – fantastic vocals from Sia, brilliant production from David.

Tom: It’s okay, but excellence? Let’s face it: the vocals and the melody, while good, just aren’t on the same level as Titanium.

Tim: No, it isn’t, that’s fair. I’ve no idea what’s going on in the video, or at least what relevance gambling and futuristic horse races have to the song, but the two main things are this: first, Fetty Wap is a ridiculous name (I know I’ve said that already but it needs repeating as many times as possible) and secondly that chorus is very good indeed, but not quite good enough to knock Titanium off the top spot.

Tom: Yep. That repeated “bang your head against the wall” grates for me, but then I think that just repeating lines for a chorus is generally a poor choice.

Tim: Hmm, you’re possibly right. Regardless, Fetty Wap is an idiotic name.

Tom: I tried to disprove you by trying to find that it had some deep and meaningful origin story for him, but, er, never mind.

Sia – Alive

“That voice is so powerful.”

Tim: New one off Sia, first off her upcoming second album, and there’s something she’d like you to know.

Tim: So apparently she’s alive. And it’s nice that’s she’s told us quite so vigorously because otherwise I wouldn’t be sure.

Tom: I was going to do a bit of sarcastic shtick here about “oh, really, I hadn’t noticed”, but frankly that voice is so powerful I can’t bring myself to do it.

Tim: Right, and it’s an interesting technique, that one of singing with such strength that your voice starts breaking, and with some singers very risky.

Tom: Particularly when you’re going to be called on to blast that song out, in that style, on every late-night show there is. It’s something she’s pulled off before, and it astonishes me.

Tim: She does it well, especially here where it works so very, very well, because it really serves to impress quite how alive and breathing she is, however much you may have taken it off, whatever it may be. It’s a very powerful song, this; to be honest I’m not sure we’ve had anything like it since Fight Song, and in terms of pure power it might even have come out on top.

Tom: But it is actually a decent song? I find myself not really wanting to reply it: I can’t deny the power and skill in the voice, but I’m not sure the composition actually backs that up. The middle eight is utterly brilliant, but then the chorus comes back and… hmm. I’m not convinced.

Tim: Oh, I disagree – for me at least, the power of the voice counts for everything, and almost forces you to ignore any defects the song may otherwise have. I’m saying, fine work all round.

Tom: I’ll tell you what though: this would have been a better Bond theme than Sam Smith’s.

Tim: Yes, but then Twinkle Twinkle Little Star would have been a better Bond theme than Sam Smith’s.