Sia - Some People Have Real Problems
The act most likely to 'do a Robyn' in 2008 is surely Sia. The Aussie singer/songwriter has been plugging away at this game for the better part of a decade, contributing to Zero 7 records and releasing two studio albums of her own. If you're like me, you would have first taken note during Six Feet Under's finale, wherein the stunning track Breathe Me soundtracked the show's rousing climax to create a classic TV moment. Apparently, the magic potion she's been brewing under the radar is now ready for public consumption as, with the release of third album Some People Have Real Problems, Sia has followed in Robyn's footsteps and delivered a delightful pop concoction that offers mass appeal.
The album was produced by Jimmy Hogarth, so one might be forgiven for expecting the worst; after all, this man has offered his services to James Blunt in the past. However, the songs here successfully balance a cosily familiar pop sheen with something a bit more unpredictable - which is, of course, what you want. Buttons is a song that has been heard by millions of YouTube fans, since its frankly ace video went viral a few months back. Why, then, has Sia relegated this lead single to hidden bonus track status? Because, silly, there's more where Buttons came from.
The feisty stomp of The Girl You Lost to Cocaine is from the same school of quirky pop but it is Playground, which delights in taking left turns whenever it (rarely) comes close to hitting a pop cliche, that deserves to be a huge hit. Even the ballads walk the road less travelled, the likes of Lentil and You Have Been Loved opting for the classier and more unusual route despite Sia having the big voice to fill any by-the-numbers Leona Lewis slowie. Her distinctive croaky voice is instantly recognisable, injecting soul and flare into songs that are made for such an individual approach. Indeed, when the music does veer a little too closely to the centre of the road (as on the aptly-titled Beautiful Calm Driving), an off-kilter delivery or unusual lyric will save the day. Even king of experimental pop Beck offers backing vocals on highlight Academia, where it is suggested that 'You can be my alphabet and I will be your calculator/And together we can work out on the escalator'. Erm, sure thing, love.
2008 seems like it's going to be a big year for the ladies. Adele and Duffy have already been listed as 'ones to watch' by every music publication going, and this unexpected treat from Sia is proof that Winehouse better watch her back because we are certainly not lacking in talented female vocalists. If all pop records this year match Some People... for quality, then music land is in for a glorious twelve months.