Elusive songwriter Sia Furler has reached the top of the Billboard 200 under her own name for the first time with her new record 1000 Forms of Fear after spending the majority of her career writing hits for others. The record sold 52,000 copies during its first week on sale, according to data from Nielsen SoundScan, per Billboard. That’s the lowest sales figure for a No. 1 album in two years, but it was Sia’s best sales week ever.
Sia is best known for the songs she’s written for others. The Australian’s early career in pop music made her realize that she abhors the limelight and has no desire to be famous. Songwriting was a way for her to still use her talent for weaving catchy pop melodies without having to put her face on anything she made. Some of her most famous songs include Rihanna’s “Diamonds” and Beyonce’s “Pretty Hurts.” In an interview with Australian paper The Sydney Morning Herald for a lengthy profile on Sia, fellow Aussie Kylie Minogue said when asked why Sia is such a hot songwriter for the world’s biggest pop stars: “Because we’re all looking for the hit. That’s it. And she delivers.”
1000 Forms of Fear is a personal record about Sia’s struggles with addiction and manic depression. In order to promote the album, Sia has used a wig of her signature blonde bob as a stand-in for herself and refused to show her face during appearances. The video for the first single, “Chandelier,” has racked up more than 65 million views on YouTube as the 11-year-old dancer Maddie Ziegler performs an incredibly complicated dance in a depressing apartment while wearing that wig.
Lena Dunham wore it while performing her own, less skilled interpretive dance during Sia’s appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! while Sia sang lying face down on a bed. Ziegler and the wig joined Sia on The Ellen DeGeneres Show while Sia sang with her back to the audience. The album cover is a picture of just the wig.
While Sia has written a multitude of No. 1 hits for others, she has yet to get a top single in her own name. This week, “Chandelier” rose to No. 17 from No. 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 as Sia pushes the limits of how much recognition she can get for her own work without giving up her privacy.
Sia has declined to do any more interviews after a candid hour-plus talk with Howard Stern to promote the new album. “I didn’t want to be famous, but I wanted to figure out a way to make my, like, gift work in my favor,” she told Stern of the decision to become a songwriter rather than a performer. She went on to speak to Stern very candidly about her childhood and struggles with addiction and mental illness in a rare glimpse into the singer’s private life. She told Stern that appearing in public “disturbs my serenity.”
1000 Forms of Fear has gotten decent reviews, with a 76 score on Metacritic. Critics are saying that while the style of arena pop music might not suit everyone’s tastes, Sia makes the smartest version of arena pop you’ll find. “1000 Forms of Fear is Furler’s sixth solo album and, if you’re coming to her fresh, it is probably her best, the result of years of refining her art (yes, writing pop smashes is an art) and of feeling wretched and unloved despite all her success. All of contemporary pop is here,” reads a review from The Guardian, which gave the record 3 out of 5 stars.
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