With some artists, a great song can be both a blessing and a curse. Of course, it can make your name and reputation, but it can also act as an albatross around your neck.
With Sia, it’s Breathe Me. Released nearly four years ago, it’s been picked up by many TV programmes (most memorably in the final few moments of Six Feet Under) and its haunting, atmospheric piano chords have become near on ubiquitous (Adele is also a fan, if her single Hometown Glory is anything to go by).
So with Sia’s first album in over two years, it’s natural to comb it looking for a standout track similar to Breathe Me – which is probably unfair, as songs like that don’t come along very often.
Instead, Some People Have Real Problems is packed with polished, professional mid-paced numbers that wouldn’t sound out of place on daytime radio. Yet the trouble is that nothing here particularly stands out, particularly in the crowded market place that Sia now finds herself occupying.
However, the Australian singer’s voice does sound as good as ever. She’s one of the few people who could cover a Pretenders song (I Go To Sleep) and coax out just the right amount of sensuality out it that Chrissie Hynde could. Admittedly, it’s not too different to the original, but the song perfectly suits Sia.
Of the original material, most of it will appeal to those who first heard of Sia through Zero 7, although the songs here are based on the more traditional guitar or piano than the electronic duo.
Song names like Little Black Sandals or Lentil may conjure up an air of tweeness, but it’s a nice sort of tweeness, and Sia’s voice never lets the mood slip too far into blandness. Day Too Soon sails close to Gabrielle territory with its sugary pop/soul feel, but the uplifting chorus and general ‘feel-good’ atmosphere means it’s well worth a listen.
You Have Been Loved is a languid piano ballad which ends up overstaying its welcome somewhat, but the nursery rhyme style verses of Academia (featuring a barely noticeable Beck) proves intensely irritating – not even the song’s lush chorus can save it unfortunately.
The Girl You Lost To Cocaine may not have a particularly promising title, but it’s one of the best tracks here, a stomping brass-laden number that leaps out of the speakers. but the album is spoilt somewhat by too many anonymous numbers that drift by – Death By Chocolate tries to revive the Breathe Me vibe, but overeggs the pudding somewhat, while Beautiful Calm Driving and Lullaby are as sleep-inducing as their titles would suggest.
While Sia’s been away, the female singer/songwriter’s image has changed somewhat. Nobody’s suggesting that she should acquire a pharmaceutical appetite a la Amy Winehouse or even try attracting the MySpace fans of Lily Allen and Kate Nash, but a bit more edge would have been good to distinguish this from the wide range of comfy female songwriters out there right now.