"1000 Forms of Fear" appears to be born out of Australian songstress Sia Furler’s attempt to cope with her wild success. It’s a refreshingly exposed album, if a bit aware of the greatness of its own ambitions. The first song is the single “Chandelier”, co-written by Jesse Shatkin. With a relatively short introduction and verse, its launch into a soaring chorus doesn’t feel totally earned, but certainly sets the tone for the whole album. Sia creates an interesting contrast by enveloping the bare lyrics in with an epic feel. Whether it’s the slow, pounding chorus of “Big Girls Cry” or the sweet, pleading melody of “Hostage”, it’s clear that every song on this album is meant to be an anthem."
Sia is known as well for co-writing hits like “Titanium” and “Wild Ones”, and one has to wonder if some of the songs on 1000 Forms of Fear would have been better suited for other artists. Sia’s voice is showing signs of damage, constantly cracking as she strains to reach and sustain high notes in “Chandelier” and “Eye of the Needle.” It may be that this raw singing is meant to be an example of the vulnerability emphasized by the lyrics, but the ever-present squeaking and tension is taxing on the ears.
Like most pop music, Sia’s songs are riddled with clichés, set to grand chord progressions to give the illusion of profundity. It’s unfortunate to hear lyrics like “I’m here by your side…we’re letting go tonight” and “I’m gonna live like tomorrow doesn’t exist” because Sia is clearly capable of doing better. It’s evident with lines like “a butterfly kissing a child with an eye for the minor key” from “Dressed In Black”. These unusually vivid lyrics are occasionally stripped of their power by Sia’s tendency to chew her words.
The most fascinating song the album is undoubtedly “Fair Game”. Featuring pulsating strings, it’s a more subdued tune that builds into a choral explosion. It also contains one of the album’s most interesting lines, “What good is intellect and airplay if I can’t respect a man”. This reflection on a lack of satisfaction derived from perceived successes is one of many curious glimpses into the life of the somewhat reclusive pop star, and helps to drive the album forward.
These moments, and Sia’s inclination to use instruments outside of standard pop tropes are what offer the biggest payout on the album. As “Dressed In Black” winds the album down, it’s evident that Sia is a master musical chef. She knows how to combine familiar elements, like a backing choir, with pop oddities, like melodic percussion, that somehow manage to put listeners at ease while leaving them wanting more.