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We Are Born by Sia | Album Review

Sia’s 2010 album takes her from gentle indie-pop to the bouncy catchy pop that we know her for today.

I have been a fan of Sia’s work form since hearing her breakout single “Breathe Me.”

While not as well known as she is today, many would be familiar with the track as it was used in the final episode of Six Feet Under. Sia had gone from a more R&B/Soul-inspired sound with her debut, Healing Is Difficult, into a more trip-hop-influenced realm on her next two projects.

While 2008’s Some People Have Real Problems had its upbeat moments, it was still mostly in the realms of indie-pop with some lingering trip-hop spices. Sia’s final album before a retreat from the spotlight would be 2010’s We Are Born.

In interviews, she has said that the record consists of some of her poppier and upbeat tracks that didn’t make her last album. Compared to the more introspective and pensive nature of her prior works, We Are Born takes a more playful exuberant approach. The album’s production, Sia told Idolator:

“Greg [Kurstin] produced the whole album. It was my usual band, and then Greg played the piano and Nick Valensi from The Strokes played the guitar. We had scheduled four weeks for it but it took two-and-a-half, so that was awesome. It just came barfing out. Then Greg took it away. Sometimes he would play the piano during the recording, and sometimes he would just pay attention and then he would add the keys later.”

Sia opens the album with the playful sounds of “The Fight.” The child-like chants of “We are born,” which was used as the album’s title, sets the scene for the technicolor playground of sound we are in for.

Valensi’s guitar work adds a healthy amount of funky and brightness. Sia’s words celebrate our triumph through the many trials and tribulations that have rocked our relationship, “We made it through the darkness to the light/ Oh, how we fought yet still we won the fight/ Oh, yes, we stand together.” Sia’s trademark vocal style adds a gorgeous flair to the song, however, it falls a little short to me compared to some of the tracks to come.

She takes a colorful and funky turn on the “Clap Your Hands.” The infectious groove and hook of “Clap Your Hands” make it hard not to want to get up and interact with the song. Her jovial stance echos the sense of positivity and happiness that she is looking to bring into her life.

The chorus, “Clap your hands, clap your hands (oh)/ Turn the lights on my nights/ This is life and we only get one chance,” is a sort of command to shake off the blues and live a little. This song absolutely shimmers through Sia’s commandingly playful yet soulful performance. The Kris Moyes-directed music video only adds to the fun nature of the track. After one listen, I’m usually left humming the song for some time. It’s definitely a favorite.

I get a little Strokes flavor on the more rock-oriented “Stop Trying.” The mix of clappable percussion lines and anthemic guitar melody bring to mind someone like The Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Sia’s performance works quite well, as she can match the band's energy effortlessly. The momentum built up by the track seems to want to shake you out of your head, “We like you/ This is a game already won/ The time has come/ Stop trying.”

As someone who deals with anxiety and the overthinking it brings, I relate quite well to the lines, “You have everything you need/ You won’t grow till you get down on your knees/ Say goodbye and do not dissect your life/ Say goodbye, there’s no need to apologise.” Sia does a great job taking a more understanding point of view without coming across as cold or harsh.

Sia introduced us to the child-like funky world of her latest sound with “You’ve Changed” in December 2009. Originally, the song was co-written by Lauren Flax and released in 2008. The house production on this original, mixed with Sia’s soulful vocals, makes for an excellent dance track.

She would rework this for We Are Born, making it one of her highest charting singles to date. It feels like an arcade of sound with xylophones, guitars, and synths in an electronic disco full of colorful lights and textures.

The exuberant nature works alongside Sia’s joy at her partner’s change in personality, “Stealing hearts was your pastime/ I saw girls falling hook line/ You stole kisses and threw them aside/ Hits and misses you lost sight/ You’ve changed, oh/ For the better, yeah.” It’s definitely a highlight on the record and a personal favorite.

Be Good to Me” fits much more in line with more of the radio-friendly pop that Sia has created on 1000 Forms of Fear and This Is Acting. The song still lies fully in the joyous youthful sound that Sia crafted for this project, but it could easily be crafted to take on any vocal talent on Top 40 radio.

I appreciate both Sia’s vocal skillset and the approachable sound on this track. She continues with the themes of hope. The support of her partner brings on Sia’s safety and happiness, “He says, this is just today
It will be okay, and I, I am listening/ He says, you can trust in me/ You’ll get all you’ll need and how can I doubt you?/ Cause you’ll be/ Be good to me

Sia brings back a more indie-rock-oriented sound on the final single, “Bring Night.” The duality between Nick’s powerful guitar work against the playful nature of the chanting backing voices, xylophones, toy piano sounds, claps, and bubbly synths really make the song a joy to listen to.

The sentiment is rather simple. Sia’s need to pass today to let loose at night comes through strongly in the bouncy nature of this track.

Sia mixes some of the softer vocal flows on Some People Have Real Problems with the playful nature of this project on “Hurting Me Now.” The song adds various bell samples and chimes that give this indie-rocker a bit of colorful pop flair.

I wish the song was a bit more confident or solemn to sell Sia's hurt over her boyfriend’s lack of attention and cutting actions toward her. As it stands, I don’t think the quirky nature of the track works well alongside the story it’s trying to tell.

Never Gonna Leave Me” brings back some of the more thunderous indie rock sounds that “Stop Trying” and “Bring the Night.” This rises and falls between the softer verses and the celebratory brightness of the choruses. The airy feeling helps to bolster Sia’s reverence of a lover who passed on, “Now I’m taking your love from above/ You’re here, and you’re never gonna leave me/ I will carry you on so long/ Your love is never gonna leave me.” I think the rise and fall between the verses and chorus bring more depth to the delivery of her words and emotions.

Cloud” gives off a more spacey and isolated tone between the descending guitar melody in the verses and blossoming synths in the chorus. Again, I feel this brighter tone in the chorus works a bit against the hurt and angst that Sia seems to be pushing out on those around her. If the guitar work were more prominent throughout and took a bit of a darker tone, I think the song would work better.

Taking a page from some of her more solemn works is the shrunken sound of “I’m In Here.” There are two versions of the song. The album version adds a bit more color through vocal sampling, backing vocals, and instrumentation that brightly flows like drapes in the breeze.

I find the piano and vocal take, released as a bonus track on the record, far more emotionally evocative. Knowing Sia’s struggles with celebrity and addiction, the lyrics come as a cry for help. She wishes anyone would pull her from the hell she is in. The bridge punches you in the gut as she cries out for any hope left, “Can’t you hear my call?/ Are you coming to get me now?/ I’ve been waiting for/ You to come rescue me/ I need you to hold/ All of the sadness I can not/ Live withinside of me.”

Sia takes such a brittle cadence on the stripped-back version that you feel she may cry at any moment. What also really sells the piano and vocal mix is the different outro. Here, the music fades away, and we are only left with Sia’s whither voice as she makes a final attempt to be heard, “I‘m in here/ I’m in here/ Can anybody see me?/ Can anybody help?” While both versions are worthy of a listen, I strongly recommend the stripped-down take over the original.

The Co-Dependent” continues the indie-rock sound that many of the tracks have crafted before. Compared to the other songs on the album, I wouldn’t say I like the vocal production on the song’s chorus. It feels cluttered and swallowed by the surrounding instrumentation and vocal doubling.

Sia sings about her own blind co-dependence with a lover whose own unhealthy behaviors she ignores. While I like the main theme, I feel like the execution is rather weak. This is probably my least favorite on the album.

I really appreciate the different sound that Sia and her band take on “Big Girl Little Girl.” The glitchy synth samples and wobbly guitar work make for a much more whimsical pop tone.

Much of this whimsy balances on Sia’s internal healing of both her inner child and adult self. You can really hear the pain that she is working through on the song’s outro, “You know with every cruel word that you utter/ That you bury yourself even deeper every day/ Oh little girl, there's enough love in this circle/ You can shackle yourself or be free from this pain.” While still a bit playful for a melancholy track, I think that it works better as a catalyst in healing past hurt.

We end the album on a spritely yet cutting take on the Madonna song “Oh Father.” The theatrics of Madonna’s original are replaced with xylophones, adding an even more child-like air to the story.

I think the subtle change in the song’s second chorus, “You can’t make me cry, you had the power/ I never felt good about myself,” adds so much more hurt towards the paternal abuse of a child. Because of its colorful tone, Sia’s cover feels much rawer. It’s like seeing all the broken toys around a girl’s room after a parent's tirade.

While the album marked a high point in Sia’s rising career, she struggled with her mental health and addictions behind the scenes. The weight of a building drug and alcohol addiction and mounting stress from fame had pushed Sia to the brink.

“It’s horrible… 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?”

At her lowest, she had written out a suicide note and gathered enough drugs to OD, but fortunately, a friend’s intervention and work in a 12-step program took her on the right path.

This would mark a change in her work as she would begin writing for other artists. This would be extremely fruitful for Sia as Rihanna, Katy Perry, Beyonce, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Kelly Clarkson would all cut tracks by her to stunning success.

Though she may obscure her face live now, Sia’s back to releasing her own work and is at the top of her game. I liked this more hopeful and upbeat take coming out of her dreamy and solemn works prior.

While there were a few tracks that I didn’t connect with, I have to say the child-like whimsy that Sia places in every track is infectious. Of course, her signature vocal techniques make for an amazing listen. The album is definitely worth a listen, and I’m sure you’ll find several tracks to keep in your collection here.

My favorites:

  • Clap Your Hands
  • Stop Trying
  • You’ve Changed
  • Bring Nights
  • I’m In Here” (specifically the piano and vocal mix)
  • Oh Father

My overall rating: 6.5 out of 10.



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