“Cheap Thrills,” Voice Management, and Contention for the Bizarre Pop Diva Championship

Because I’m a man of my word, I’m doing something about it. To be fair, you were warned. Twice. And here we go again, this time starting with the least preferred.

I say “least preferred” because I’m not a pop fan. I tolerate it because my wife listens to it and while I can appreciate some aspects of it, it’s not my go-to. Based on the only song I’d heard before this, I’m definitely not a Sia fan. That song was “Alive," and while I was happy for her affirmation of survival and all, I just couldn’t stand to hear that voice flying too close to the sun and melting over and over. Like a speeding car screeching to a halt stuck on a Vine loop. Not interested. If this was her gimmick, I was determined I was already checking out of that noise motel but quick.

But then this sneaked up on me:

Now, full disclosure: I’m a sucker for some Dancehall. Shabba Ranks, Super Cat, Mad Cobra, Cutty Ranks, all that. Proud, confident salvos you can’t help but Shake Ya Ass to without Mystikal lording over you. I usually sidestep some of the guest appearances because they’re watered-down versions of Dancehall’s gritty funk. “Cheap Thrills,” however, sounds more complimentary than co-opted. Sean Paul is a nice fit with this track.

And then, sitting with my wife one night while she’s perusing a YouTube playlist of Billboard Top 50 Songs of the week, this pops up. And I discover the other part of this package is Sia. I’ll be damned. The video, while treading familiar territory, is fun to watch. Points for reviewing most every major dance craze from the 50s up through the 90s. And that very last dance. When they did the jump to the left and took a step to the right. With their hands on their hips, they brought their knees in tight. But it was the pelvic thrust that really drove me insane and warmed my heart.

More important than that, Sia sounds confident. Cool, calm, collected, and not forcing anything. In no way am I saying she should abandon trying to be heartfelt and go for broke just going for kicks. No artist should be that limited. It’s all about tone and control of her voice. There’s no reason she can’t exhibit that same clarity when she amps up the passion and power. I’ll just be blunt for a second: “Alive” sounds like she’s auditioning for The Voice and failing miserably. Now I have reason to believe she’s more capable than that.

I haven’t done a complete 180 on Sia just yet, mind you. I simply saw a side of her that I can live with. A reason to believe she might be able to beat Icarus at his own game.

In other impressions I’ve gotten of her, she also seems to want to capture the Bizarre Pop Diva Championship that Lady Gaga vacated when she got engaged, went to Hollywood, and failed to defend her title within the allotted 30 days. Sia is a little more subdued, but those tendencies are certainly there. Now it’s a matter of whether she can balance style and substance. And if her voice can convince the masses she’s not a novelty.

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