Sia’s PR Dance Is More Complicated Than Her “Chandelier” Video

The Australian pop star Sia is attempting a strange feat of getting famous without anyone actually knowing who she is, and even more bizarrely seems to be succeeding at it, as the video for her latest single “Chandelier” has racked up over 50 million views on YouTube without the singer even appearing in it. Her new album, 1000 Forms of Fear, is getting great reviews even though her record deal requires minimal promotion and in the little press she’s done, the 38-year-old music industry veteran has declined to show her face.

Aside from “Chandelier,” Sia is best known for being a highly successful pop songwriter, penning tunes for the likes of Rihanna, Katy Perry, Britney Spears, Beyoncé, Eminem, Kylie Minogue, Christina Aguilera, and David Guetta, among many others. In an interview with Australian paper The Sydney Morning Herald for a lengthy profile on Sia, fellow Aussie 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.”

The press for 1000 Forms of Fear and “Chandelier” has involved Sia performing the song on Ellen facing with her back to the audience while the 11-year-old star of the music video danced, another TV performance of the song on Late Night with Seth Meyers featured Lena Dunham dancing while Sia sang laying face down on a bed. Sia appeared on the cover of Billboard magazine with a bag over her head and has declined to do any more interviews after a candid hour-plus talk with Howard Stern. Sia uses a wig of her signature blond bob as a representative of herself, and uses it to allow others to stand-in for her.

“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. She went on to speak to Stern very candidly about her childhood and struggles with addiction and mental illness, a rare glimpse into the singer’s private life.

In that same issue of Billboard, Sia wrote an Anti-Fame Manifesto explaining why she doesn’t want to be famous. “If anyone besides famous people knew what it was like to be a famous person, they would never want to be famous,” she wrote.

Part of this attempt to avoid the limelight while writing hit single after hit single — and now taking credit for some hits of her own — is attributed to the singer’s battles with addiction and mental illness. Sia has been diagnosed as bipolar and has openly spoken about attempting to take her own life after a six-year battle with drugs and alcohol. She told Stern that appearing in public “disturbs my serenity.”

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. “But rather than cleaving to pop’s primary palette, where sexiness and triumphalism play well, these are songs mostly about pain. “Chandelier” is the diary of an alcoholic == the giddy highs, and the desperate lows == set to triumphal, rococo pop production techniques. Pop is often dismissed as insubstantial and emotionally vacuous and this stuff is not.”

While (kind of) shying away from the spotlight may be Sia’s way of maintaining her mental health while continuing to pursue her passion, it has gotten her even more attention than just showing her face would, and seems like she’s trying to have her cake and eat it too. Some of the pop stars Sia has written for will certainly be watching to see if she can pull off this complicated PR dance in the wake of her biggest solo effort to date.

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