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Sia Kate Isobelle Furler (born 18 December 1975), referred to mononymously as Sia (/ˈsiːə/), is an Australian singer, songwriter, record producer and music video director. She started her career as a singer in the local Adelaide acid jazz band Crisp in the mid-1990s. In 1997, when Crisp disbanded, she released her debut studio album titled OnlySee in Australia. She then moved to London, England, and provided lead vocals for the British duo Zero 7.
In 2000, Sia signed to Sony Music's sub-label Dance Pool and released her second studio album, Healing Is Difficult, the following year. Displeased with the promotion of the record, she signed to Go! Beat and released her third studio album, Colour the Small One, in 2004. The project struggled to connect with a mainstream audience, and so Sia relocated to New York City in 2005 and began touring across the United States. She released her fourth and fifth studio releases, Some People Have Real Problems and We Are Born, in 2008 and 2010, respectively. She then took a hiatus from performing, during which she focused on songwriting for other artists. Her catalogue includes the successful collaborations "Titanium" (with David Guetta), "Diamonds" (with Rihanna) and "Wild Ones" (with Flo Rida).
In 2014, Sia released her sixth studio album 1000 Forms of Fear, which debuted at No 1 in the U.S. Billboard 200 and generated the top-ten breakthrough single "Chandelier" and a trilogy of music videos starring child dancer Maddie Ziegler. In 2016, she released her seventh studio album This Is Acting, which spawned her first Hot 100 number one single, "Cheap Thrills". The same year, Sia gave her Nostalgic for the Present Tour, which incorporated performance art elements. Sia has received an array of accolades, including ARIA Awards and an MTV Video Music Award.
Life and career
1975–97: Early life and career beginnings
Sia Kate Isobelle Furler was born on 18 December 1975 in Adelaide, South Australia. Her father, Phil Colson, is a musician, and her mother, Loene Furler, is an art lecturer. Sia is the niece of actor-singer Kevin Colson and musician Colin Hay, a member of Australian group Men at Work. Sia said that as a child she imitated the performing style of Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder and Sting, who she counted as her early influences. She attended Adelaide High School. In the mid-1990s, Sia started a career as a singer in the local acid jazz band Crisp. Sia collaborated with the band and contributed vocals to their two EPs: Word and the Deal (1996) and Delirium (1997). In 1997 Crisp disbanded, and Sia released her debut studio album entitled OnlySee on Flavoured Records in Australia. The album sold 1,200 copies.
1997–2006: Zero 7, Healing Is Difficult and Colour the Small One
After Crisp disbanded in 1997, Sia moved to London, where she performed as a background vocalist for British band Jamiroquai. She also provided lead vocals for English downtempo group Zero 7 on their first three studio albums and toured with the group. On Zero 7's 2001 album Simple Things, Sia contributed vocals to two tracks: "Destiny" and "Distractions." The single "Destiny" peaked at No. 30 on the UK Singles Chart. In 2004, she provided vocals for Zero 7 on "Somersault" and "Speed Dial No. 2" (from the album When It Falls). In 2006, Sia again collaborated with Zero 7 for the group's third album, The Garden and hence she is regarded as the "unofficial" lead singer of Zero 7.
In 2000, Sia signed a recording contract with Sony Music's sub-label Dance Pool and released her first single, "Taken for Granted", which peaked at No. 10 on the UK Singles Chart. In 2001, she released her second solo album, Healing Is Difficult, which blends retro jazz and soul music and lyrically discusses Sia's dealing with the death of her first love affair. Displeased with the promotion of the album, Sia fired her manager, left Sony Music and signed with Go! Beat, a subsidiary of Universal Music Group (UMG). At the APRA Awards of 2002, Sia won the Breakthrough Songwriter category alongside Brisbane pop duo Aneiki's Jennifer Waite and Grant Wallis.
In 2004, Sia released her third studio album, Colour the Small One. The album employs a mixture of acoustic instruments and electronic backing to her material. The album spawned four singles: "Don't Bring Me Down", "Breathe Me", "Where I Belong" and "Numb". "Breathe Me" peaked at No. 71 in the United Kingdom, No. 19 in Denmark and No. 81 in France. "Where I Belong" was scheduled to be included on the soundtrack for the film Spider-Man 2; however, owing to a record label conflict, it was withdrawn at the last minute.
Dissatisfied with Colour the Small One's being poorly marketed and struggling to connect with a mainstream audience, Sia relocated to New York City in 2005. During that time, "Breathe Me" appeared in the final scene of the U.S. HBO television series Six Feet Under, which helped increase Sia's fame in the United States. Consequently, Sia's manager, David Enthoven, set up a tour across the country to maintain her career.
2007–10: Some People Have Real Problems and We Are Born
In 2007, Sia released a live album entitled Lady Croissant, which included eight live songs from her April 2006 performance at the Bowery Ballroom in New York and one new studio recording—"Pictures". A year later, she left Zero 7 on friendly terms, replaced by Eska Mtungwazi as the band's frontwoman. Sia released her fourth studio album, Some People Have Real Problems on 8 January 2008. The album peaked at No. 41 in Australia and was certified gold by the Australian Recording Industry Association. It charted at No. 26 on the US Billboard 200, becoming Sia's first album to chart in the United States.
Some People Have Real Problems yielded four singles. The lead single, "Day Too Soon", was released in November 2007 and peaked at No. 24 on the US Hot Dance Club Songs. The second single, "The Girl You Lost to Cocaine", was made available in March 2008. The single peaked at No. 11 in the Netherlands and No. 12 in Spain; it additionally reached No. 8 on the US Hot Dance Club Songs. The third single from the album, "Soon We'll Be Found", was made available in October 2008. The Bart Hendrix Deep Dope remix of "Buttons" was issued as the final single from Some People Have Real Problems in February 2009.
In May 2009, Sia released TV Is My Parent on DVD, which includes a live concert at New York's Hiro Ballroom, four music videos and behind-the-scene footage. At the ARIA Music Awards of 2009, Sia won the Best Music DVD category for TV Is My Parent. She also received a nomination for Best Breakthrough Artist Album for Some People Have Real Problems.
In 2009, American singer Christina Aguilera approached Sia about writing ballads for Aguilera's then-upcoming sixth studio album. The final product, Bionic, includes three songs co-written by Sia. Later in 2010, Sia also co-wrote "Bound to You" for the soundtrack of the American film Burlesque, which starred Aguilera and American singer Cher. The song was nominated for Best Original Song at the 68th Golden Globe Awards. In May 2011, Sia appeared on the inaugural season of the U.S. version of The Voice as an adviser for Aguilera, who served as a vocal coach and judge.
In June 2010, Sia released her fifth studio album, We Are Born. The release peaked at No. 2 on the ARIA Albums Chart and was certified gold by the Australian Recording Industry Association. We Are Born was preceded by three singles: the lead single, "You've Changed", was released in December 2009 and charted at No. 31 in Australia. The follow-up single, "Clap Your Hands", was made available in June 2010 and became the album's best-charting single, peaking at No. 17 in Australia, No. 10 in the Netherlands and No. 27 in Switzerland. "Bring Night" was issued as the final single from the project in September 2010, peaking at No. 99 in Australia. 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". To promote We Are Born, Sia embarked on the We Meaning You Tour, which visited North America and Europe in April–May 2010. The first show of the tour at the Commadore Ballroom in Vancouver, was cancelled after five songs when the singer had to retire due to heat exhaustion. She followed this with the We Are Born Tour, which visited Australia in February 2011 and North America in July–August 2011. In March 2012, Sia released the greatest hits album Best Of... in Australia.
2009–13: Songwriting career and worldwide recognition
Following the success of We Are Born, Sia became uncomfortable with her growing fame. She later told The New York Times: "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?" She refused to do promos for her tours, began to wear a mask on stage and became increasingly dependent on drugs and alcohol on the road; she considered suicide. Sia fired Enthoven and hired Jonathan Daniel, who suggested that she write songs for other artists. She retired as a recording artist and began a career as a songwriter. She soon penned "Titanium" for American singer Alicia Keys, but it was later sent to David Guetta, who included Sia's original demo vocals on the song and released it as a single in 2011. "Titanium" peaked within the top ten of record charts in the United States, Australia and numerous European regions. However, Sia was not pleased with the success of the single: "[...] I never even knew it was gonna happen, and I was really upset. Because I had just retired, I was trying to be a pop songwriter, not an artist." From 2011 to 2013, Sia also co-wrote songs for many recording artists, including Beyoncé, Kylie Minogue, Flo Rida and Rihanna. Her collaboration with Flo Rida, "Wild Ones", peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was the tenth best-selling song of 2012 globally.
2013–14: Breakthrough with 1000 Forms of Fear
In October 2013, Sia released "Elastic Heart" featuring The Weeknd and Diplo for the soundtrack of the American film The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013). Sia executive produced Brooke Candy's debut EP, Opulence, released in May 2014, and co-wrote 3 songs on the EP. In July 2014, Sia released her own sixth studio album, 1000 Forms of Fear. The album debuted at No. 1 in the US Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 52,000 copies. By October 2015, it was certified gold by the RIAA denoting 500,000 equivalent-album units sold in the United States. The record peaked at No. 1 in Australia and reached the top ten of charts in numerous European regions. It was certified silver by the British Phonographic Industry and gold by the Australian Recording Industry Association. By early 2016, the album had sold 1 million copies worldwide.
1000 Forms of Fear's lead single, "Chandelier" was released in March 2014. The song peaked at No. 8 on the US Billboard Hot 100, becoming Sia's first entry on that chart as a lead artist. Elsewhere, the song experienced similar commercial success, ranking in the top ten of the record charts in Australia and numerous European regions. As of January 2015, the single had sold 2 million copies in the United States. "Eye of the Needle" and "Big Girls Cry" were released as the second and third singles from the album, respectively, in June 2014. In January 2015, Sia released a solo version of "Elastic Heart" as the fourth single from 1000 Forms of Fear; it eventually reached the top 20 on the Hot 100. At the 57th Annual Grammy Awards (2015), Sia received four nominations for "Chandelier": Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Pop Solo Performance and Best Music Video.
For live performances of songs from 1000 Forms of Fear, Sia chose not to show her face, either facing away from audiences or hiding it behind oversized platinum blonde wigs. In videos for the singles "Chandelier", "Elastic Heart" and "Big Girls Cry", choreographed by Ryan Heffington and co-directed by Sia and Daniel Askill, and in many of the promotional live performances, child dancer Maddie Ziegler performed as a proxy for Sia in bobbed blonde wigs similar to Sia's familiar hairstyle. The three videos have received a total of more than 2.5 billion views on Vevo. Sia's collaborations with Heffington have "done more to raise the standards of dance in pop music than nearly any current artist integrating the forms." Sia explained to Kristen Wiig in an interview in Interview magazine that she decided to conceal her face to avoid a celebrity lifestyle and maintain some privacy: "I'm trying to have some control over my image. And I'm allowed to maintain some modicum of privacy. But also I would like not to be picked apart or for people to observe when I put on ten pounds or take off ten pounds or I have a hair extension out of place or my fake tan is botched. Most people don't have to be under that pressure, and I'd like to be one of them."
In 2014, Sia contributed to the soundtrack to the 2014 film adaptation of the Broadway musical Annie. Sia, along with producer Greg Kurstin, wrote three new songs for the film as well as re-working songs from the musical. Sia, Kurstin and Annie director Will Gluck were nominated at the 72nd Golden Globe Awards for Best Original Song for one of the film's original songs, "Opportunity".
2015–present: This Is Acting
In an interview with NME in February 2015, Sia revealed that she had completed the follow-up to 1000 Forms of Fear, entitled This Is Acting. Furler said that 1000 Forms of Fear was released so she could be freed from her record deal and simply write for other artists, but the album's success has spurred her to continue writing her own music. In May 2015, Sia's cover of The Mamas & the Papas' "California Dreamin'" was released on the soundtrack of the movie San Andreas. The same month, alongside the digital deluxe release of 1000 Forms of Fear, she released a mobile game, Bob Job. At the 72nd Venice International Film Festival in September 2015, Sia announced that her new single "Alive" from This Is Acting was co-written by Adele and had originally been intended for Adele's third album.
In November, Sia collaborated with composer J. Ralph on the soundtrack of the environmental documentary Racing Extinction, co-writing and singing the song "One Candle". She also released two more songs from the album, "Bird Set Free" and "One Million Bullets". "Cheap Thrills" and "Reaper" were subsequently released as promotional singles for the album. In January 2016, eight days prior to the release of This Is Acting, she released "Unstoppable" as the final pre-release promotion single for the album. Eventually, the single "Cheap Thrills", featuring Sean Paul, reached No. 1 on the US Billboard Hot 100. Sia released two videos for the song, one of which features Ziegler and two male dancers.
In April 2016, Sia gave a widely acclaimed performance at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival that went viral online. Her performance received an effusively positive critical reception as "one of the greatest moments in Coachella's 17-year history", and it was consistently noted as one of the best performances of the 2016 festival. The performance was her first full concert since 2011. In May 2016, Sia made a surprise appearance on the finale for Survivor: Kaôh Rōng where she donated $50,000 to contestant Tai Trang. She donated another $50,000 to an animal charity of his choice, noting that the two share a mutual love of animals. The same month, she contributed vocals to a cover of Nat King Cole's "Unforgettable" which was featured on the soundtrack of 2016 Pixar film Finding Dory.
In June 2016, Sia gave a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado, featuring Ziegler. From May to August, Sia performed in nearly a dozen festival and other concerts in America and European and Middle Eastern countries, including Portugal, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Hungary, Romania, Poland, the United Kingdom, Russia, Lebanon and Israel. In September 2016, she released a single, "The Greatest", with vocals from American hip hop recording artist Kendrick Lamar. A video was released the same day featuring Ziegler – the dancer's fifth video collaboration with Sia and Heffington. The two performed the song with several other dancers, and also performed "Chandelier", live the next day at the Apple annual fall event, drawing media attention. The videos that Sia has posted to her YouTube channel have accumulated a total of more than 4.9 billion views.
Sia gave her Nostalgic for the Present Tour in North America from September to November 2016, featuring Ziegler. As at Coachella and subsequent live performances, Sia appeared at the back of the stage with her familiar wig covering her face, while her dancers performed Heffington's choreography synchronized with prerecorded videos played on big screens. The tour received a warm reaction: "She let her dancers own center stage, carrying out one skit/performance after another as Sia delivered the soundtrack. ... It defied all the regular rules of pop concerts, which are usually designed to focus every ounce of the audience's attention on the star of the show. Yet, Sia's bold gamble paid off, resulting in one of the most daringly original and wholly satisfying shows of 2016." Ed Masley of The Arizona Republic described the show as "part performance art, part interpretive dance. ... [Sia] sounded amazing. ... There's so much raw emotion in her songs. And you can definitely hear that in her voice, but it becomes more visceral when you can also read it in the faces of her dancers, especially Ziegler. ... The entire performance was brilliantly staged, with one song flowing seamlessly into another". Sia released the deluxe edition of This Is Acting in October 2016, which includes three new tracks, a remix version of "Move Your Body" and a solo version of "The Greatest". She was nominated for three 2017 Grammy Awards.
Sia performed in concert at the close of the Dubai World Cup on March 25, 2017, together with her dancers, led by Ziegler.
Artistry and accolades
Sia has a recorded vocal range spanning from Bb2 to Bb6. Her music incorporates hip hop, funk and soul music as a base for her vocal styling. About her early influences, she stated "When I was on tour with Zero 7, they would listen to music. We would be on the tour bus and the Kings of Convenience would be playing, and then I made Colour the Small One which couldn't be more derivative of Kings of Convenience and James Taylor and the things that Zero 7 were playing on the bus. I'm very easily influenced."
1000 Forms of Fear is primarily a pop album, with influences of hip hop, reggae and electropop. This Is Acting is mostly composed of songs written by Sia with other female pop artists in mind, but the artists did not include the songs on their albums. Sia described songwriting for others as "play-acting." The Guardian's Kitty Empire commented that the latter album "provides an obvious counterpoint to Sia's more personal album of 2014, 1000 Forms of Fear, whose stonking single, "Chandelier", tackled her intoxicated past. This Is Acting makes plain the fact of manufacture – a process akin to bespoke tailoring."
In her 2016 live performances, Sia's music is part of performance-art-like shows that involve dance and theatrical effects. For an MTV News writer "Sia's throaty, slurred vocals are her norm," while a The Fader contributor noted "In the Billboard Hot 100 landscape, Sia's songwriting voice, which deals with depression and addiction, is singular—her actual voice even moreso."
Sia has received an array of accolades, including ARIA Awards, an MTV Video Music Award and eight nominations for Grammy Awards.
Sia revealed in the autumn of 2015 that she had written and directed a screenplay based on a one-page story that she wrote in 2007, titled Sister. Maddie Ziegler is set to star in the project. Sia and her husband Erik Anders Lang have also co-directed a documentary about her life, reportedly called Untitled Sia Documentary Project.
Sia lent her voice to the show South Park in its eighteenth season. In episode 3 entitled "The Cissy", she portrayed Lorde in a parody song in the episode entitled "Push (Feeling Good on a Wednesday)". The resemblance was so convincing that many viewers thought Lorde had provided the voice in the song. Sia wrote and recorded "Angel By the Wings", the title song for the documentary film The Eagle Huntress, which premiered in 2016 at the Sundance Film Festival. In 2016 Sia covered "Blackbird" by The Beatles for the Netflix original series Beat Bugs. She is set to appear in the 2017 animated film My Little Pony: The Movie as the voice of "pop star" character Songbird Serenade. She will also contribute two original songs for the film's soundtrack.
Following the disbandment of Crisp in 1997, Sia decided to move to London to follow her relationship with boyfriend Dan Pontifex. Several weeks later, while on a stopover in Thailand, she received the news that Pontifex had died after being in a car accident in London. She returned to Australia, but soon she received a call from one of Pontifex's former housemates, who invited her to stay in London. Her 2001 album Healing Is Difficult lyrically deals with Pontifex's death: "I was pretty fucked up after Dan died. I couldn't really feel anything. I could intellectualise a lot of stuff; that I had a purpose, that I was loved, but I couldn't actually feel anything." Sia recalled the effect of his death in a 2007 interview for The Sunday Times: "We were all devastated, so we got shit-faced on drugs and Special Brew. Unfortunately, that bender lasted six years for me."
In 2008, Sia discussed her sexual orientation in interviews and announced her relationship with JD Samson; they broke up in 2011. When asked about her sexuality in 2009, she said, "I've always dated boys and girls and anything in between. I don't care what gender you are, it's about people. ... I've always been... well, flexible is the word I would use."
Sia has suffered from depression, addictions to painkillers and alcohol, and had contemplated suicide, going as far as to write a suicide note. In 2010, Sia's official website announced that all scheduled promotional events and shows had been cancelled due to her poor health. She cited extreme lethargy and panic attacks and considered retiring permanently from performing and touring. According to her Twitter account, she was diagnosed with Graves' disease – an autoimmune disorder characterized by an over-active thyroid. Later that year, in an ARIA Awards interview, Sia said her health was improving after rest and thyroid hormone replacement therapy.
Sia married documentary filmmaker Erik Anders Lang at her home in Palm Springs, California, in August 2014. The couple announced their separation in December 2016. During a 2014 appearance on The Howard Stern Show, Sia was asked if she was religious, to which she responded, "I believe in a higher power and it's called 'Whatever Dude' and he's a queer, surfing Santa that's a bit like my grandpa, so yes." In the same interview, she stated that she is a feminist and that Whatever Dude divinely inspired the lyrics she wrote for Rihanna's song "Diamonds". One of Sia's tattoos, on her hand, reads "Whatever Dude".
Sia is a cousin of Australian Christian rock musician Peter Furler.
Sia, who is a vegan, participated in an advertisement for PETA Asia-Pacific, with her dog, Pantera, to encourage pet neutering. Sia has also joined other publicly known figures for the "Oscar's Law" campaign, in protest against large-scale pet breeding. Other advocates include singers Jon Stevens, Paul Dempsey, Rachael Leahcar and Missy Higgins. She is also a supporter of the Beagle Freedom Project, performing "I'm in Here" live at the Beagle Freedom Project Gala on 9 September 2013. For her 2016 Nostalgic for the Present Tour, Sia partnered with various rescue organizations to conduct a dog adoption fair at each of her concerts. Sia is nominated for a 2016 Libby Award for "Best Voice for Animals".