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I do want to swing from a chandelier.
May 12, 2014 10:18 AM   Subscribe

Already being hailed by some as maybe one of the best music videos of the year, Sia's Chandelier, featuring 11-year old Maddie Ziegler, is by turns haunting, beautiful, strange and frisson inducing.

Australian pop singer Sia is perhaps best known as a songwriter, having written Beyonce's Pretty Hurts, Brittney Spear's Perfume, and a whole bunch of other songs. Many might know her from her hit Breathe Me, featured on the finale of Six Feet Under.

You may recognize Maddie Ziegler from the TV reality show Dance Moms.

The choreography for Chandelier is by Ryan Heffington.
posted by Lutoslawski (93 comments total) 60 users marked this as a favorite

 
NY Times Magazine ran an excellent article on Sia a few weeks ago. I saw Sia in concert several times in concert over the 2000s, and her vocal skills are incredibly formidable (I also saw her concerts decline in quality in what the article spells out better than I can).

She sang a lot of the vocals for Zero 7 albums as well.

Another fun fact: When she was 16 she moved from Australia to NYC for the summer to live with her "uncle" (actually a close family friend), the awesome Colin Hay. They would stay up late and watch Letterman, of which both were huge fans. Years later, Sia would perform on Letterman, and her reaction at the end when Letterman comes over to congratulate her, particularly with the knowledge of her summer with Colin Hay watching his show, is priceless.
posted by mcstayinskool at 10:42 AM on May 12 [10 favorites]


Holy crap, that's a great video, really affecting. And a painful song from Sia, yikes, but fantastic--I've long felt that Sia is quite underrated (or at least, very under-appreciated).
posted by LooseFilter at 10:42 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]


When young Miss Ziegler, in her dance, did the splits, my hip joints and thigh muscles cringed (even though they couldn't possibly have seen the computer screen!) I did first hear Sia from her vocals for Zero 7, and...wow.
posted by Guy Smiley at 10:45 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]


I have still not seen this video, but my 2-year old daughter saw it this weekend and has been requesting rewatches ever since.
posted by selfnoise at 10:47 AM on May 12


Hey, I have the exact same hexagonal table that's in the corner! Fortunately the rest of my house isn't that depressing.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 10:49 AM on May 12


The song "Titanium" makes me really, really wish I could I could sing. I hear that voice in that chorus ("I am ti-TA-NI-UM!") and I just think it must be unbelievably cathartic to belt out a line like that.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 11:00 AM on May 12 [2 favorites]


I liked her more when she was doing guest vocals for Zero 7.

Just kidding, this is fan-freakin'-tastic. That chorus is just MASSIVE.
posted by raihan_ at 11:07 AM on May 12


Love me some Sia. This song may have to grow on me and the video was neat for one watch. I like that Sia has her more uptempo stuff but still has a great and unique sound on slower work. Some of her songs from a while ago got me through the days. I wish I could link our fine social scene to half her catalog.
posted by cashman at 11:23 AM on May 12


I love me some Sia.

She sings what is probably my theme song.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:31 AM on May 12


Not knowing who Sia is or what she looks like, I watched the first 5 or 10 seconds of the dancer's presence in the video checking out her body. Once I made the connection that Sia probably isn't just an extremely tiny, fully grown adult and that the dancer is actually the very young and very talented performer hired for the shoot, dirtiness began to sink in. Do I need to start going to church?
posted by item at 11:33 AM on May 12 [1 favorite]


I just hope the dancer has a current tetanus shot.
posted by cjorgensen at 11:37 AM on May 12 [7 favorites]


Yes, the video will probably get two thumbs up from the pedophile contingent. I mean, did it really have to be a flesh-colored leotard?
posted by jim in austin at 11:40 AM on May 12 [12 favorites]


"Holy crap" is word-for-word what I thought, too. I'm old enough to have only sort of a passing knowledge that music videos are still something that happens, but this one is great. The song isn't necessarily my thing, but the video? Innovative. Great choreography, great cinematography. Impressive.
posted by cribcage at 11:41 AM on May 12


The song "Titanium" makes me really, really wish I could I could sing. I hear that voice in that chorus ("I am ti-TA-NI-UM!") and I just think it must be unbelievably cathartic to belt out a line like that

My not being able to sing does not stop me from belting that shit out in the car anyway. It is indeed an intensely satisfying song to sing.
posted by yasaman at 11:43 AM on May 12 [5 favorites]


I mean, did it really have to be a flesh-colored leotard?

Funny, my first impressions were that it was a good way to de-feature her. That, coupled with the facial features and some of the stiff-limbed choreography made her seem almost like a Barbie doll or something.
posted by backseatpilot at 11:47 AM on May 12 [14 favorites]


My wife has an unhealthy obsession with Dance Moms. We unfortunately also have an open floor plan, so whenever she watches it, I am also exposed to it. I also had no idea that I could both roll my eyes in disgust and have my jaw drop in admiration so many times in the same half hour.

For those who don't watch the show, Maddie is the favorite of Abby Lee Miller and consistently wins dance competitions, often with little rehearsal or practice. She has a little sister, as well; it's refreshing that the site linked in the post promotes both of them and doesn't just favor one over the other.

Like many reality shows, it only depicts the drama and other nonsense that makes for "good" TV. It's probably pretty easy editing to make a very demanding coach (whose practices I don't always agree with) look very bad on TV, especially when under the demands of the mothers. My wife defends Abby Lee Miller, as I guess she trains dancers to prepare them for the business. The show leaves out what I assume is a lot of technical instruction that the dancers receive from Abby and focuses on the petty mama drama. After watching this video, it does indeed look like Abby is doing something right in shaping Maddie's talent. I wish the show focused on the dancers' individual talents, but I guess no one would watch.

I too question the choice of a nude leotard. In the opening scene, it looked like her body was pixeled out. Had to look around a second to make sure no one was over my shoulder thinking I was watching something inappropriate.

Oh yeah, I love Sia, too. This combination is pretty awesome.
posted by photovox at 11:47 AM on May 12


Funny, my first impressions were that it was a good way to de-feature her. That, coupled with the facial features and some of the stiff-limbed choreography made her seem almost like a Barbie doll or something.

Yeah, my thought watching it was not that it was dancing with abandon, but rather that she was a marionette, and possibly a broken one at that. I thought that maybe a child was chosen partly to avoid showing any of the distinguishing human features of an adult.

I'm sure the pedo crowd will enjoy it, but short of putting all our young people, of both sexes, into burqa's I don't know of any way to stop that.
posted by tyllwin at 11:57 AM on May 12 [6 favorites]


Don't get me wrong. I'm certainly not a prude and I'm all in favor of artistic license. I just felt whoever did the video purposefully jabbed a finger in my eye to get a rise out of me (one way or the other) and possibly did so at the expense of a young performer. And the music? Meh, pop...
posted by jim in austin at 11:59 AM on May 12 [3 favorites]


HOLY SHIT.

That kid dances better than many adults I know, and I work with a lot of dancers. I could stand to learn a lot from her energy and skills and expressions and how she just DOES IT without any hesitation or holding back. What an inspiration.

I really hope that if she decides to continue dance into adulthood that all that raw passion and talent doesn't get scrubbed away into something more docile and "acceptable". She is captivating to watch. I would love to see more modern dancers like her.
posted by divabat at 12:04 PM on May 12 [2 favorites]


I didn't realize Ke$ha's conscience had put out an album.
posted by grumpybear69 at 12:13 PM on May 12 [2 favorites]


I just felt whoever did the video purposefully jabbed a finger in my eye to get a rise out of me (one way or the other)

It was clear to me from the moment the dancer appeared that she was a child and the dancing is not sexualized. I am a little confused and yes, disturbed, that this is getting read as sexual nonetheless.

If I was giving the benefit of the doubt, I would speculate that it's because images of female performers are so overwhelmingly presented as sexual in our culture that the context here - a music video - is causing the reaction. Maybe you have been trained to see female performers this way.

I can't see anything in the video itself that could explain the reaction.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 12:20 PM on May 12 [33 favorites]


I have never heard of Sia, but as a Dance Moms fan, this was a fun watch.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:21 PM on May 12


It seems like a lovely song and pretty cool video (gotta respect the dance!), but I can't say it was as compelling as the video for Lil Jon's Turn Down For What (previously) or Timber Timbre's Beat the Drum Slowly (previously), which both restored my faith in music videos circa 2014.

Still! More awesome music videos can only be a good thing.
posted by redsparkler at 12:28 PM on May 12 [5 favorites]


I got a bit of a Kate Bush vibe from the song and video (and that's generally a very good thing).

Also, that video has some very long takes, which makes the whole thing even more impressive than it already is.
posted by schmod at 12:28 PM on May 12 [3 favorites]


Kutsuwamushi: It was clear to me from the moment the dancer appeared that she was a child and the dancing is not sexualized. I am a little confused and yes, disturbed, that this is getting read as sexual nonetheless.

I don't believe the dancing was sexualized, per se. I feel like perhaps the nude leotard just didn't translate well to the small (tiny) YouTube screen, where it's hard to tell "is she naked or not". I had the video playing on my second monitor at work, and found myself worrying about someone walking by and wondering what the hell I was watching. But maybe that says I just shouldn't be watching YouTube at work. :-)
posted by jferg at 12:31 PM on May 12


I think the element that jars is the hair and make-up. I'm not sure how I'm supposed to read the character of the dancer in relation to the song. Is she a facet of Sia?
posted by freya_lamb at 12:48 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]


I don't listen to radio hardly at all, and the TV I watch is from Netflix or Amazon, which all adds up to a stunning unfamiliarity with current pop music. I saw a link to this video a month or so ago on AV Club or something, with pretty much the exact description as here: Haunting and beautiful and dark (maybe?) I love Sia, so I clicked on the link.

I was listening to the song, and it didn't really sound all that dark or haunting to me. It was commenting on happiness and how happiness feels and it basically sounded positive and pro-happiness to me, not dark. I thought, Well, okay, AV Club's reviewers are likely a lot more critical and read songs from a much more academic perspective than I do, so maybe I just need to dig deeper. It also didn't really sound exactly like Sia's voice as I remembered it, but the last album of hers I own is probably 10 years old, so I figured she had just transformed her style a bit over the intervening decade. I spent the entire four minutes telling myself that I was going to do my best to give this new Sia the benefit of the doubt, because even though it didn't really sound like her old stuff, it was okay enough, and maybe I just needed to give it as much of a chance as the AV Club did.

At the end of the video a Glee title card came up and only then did I realize that I apparently clicked the wrong link and had actually been listening to Gwenneth Paltrow sing a cover of Pharrell's "Happy," from the Glee soundtrack.

Since then I've been trying to do a better job reading up on who's popular and what their songs sound like, because it was pretty damned embarrassing.

Anyway, you might enjoy the recent NYT Magazine article on Sia, which I don't see linked here.
posted by mudpuppie at 12:50 PM on May 12 [15 favorites]


jferg, I didn't have your comments in mind when I wrote that. I don't think I would want non-sexual nudity on my screen at work either, because of the potential for it to be misread.

That's different than expecting to be sexually titillated, despite no sexually charged content, and then feeling trolled when you realize that the performer is a child. This seems like a perfect example of the ubiquity of the male gaze and its effect it can have on people.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 12:51 PM on May 12 [2 favorites]


I was curious about the words written on the dancer's hands. Looks like they say "whatever dude" and "don't think," echoing the lyrics of "won't look down, won't open my eyes." I'm wondering if the Slate writer who called this song "bouncy" and wrote "Apropos of the song’s theme of childlike abandon, Ziegler [. . .] frolics around an apartment," stopped to watch the video or listen to the song. It's very dark, and it only becomes more dark when it accompanies a child dancing through empty rooms and curtsying mechanically with a crazed expression.
posted by knuckle tattoos at 12:53 PM on May 12 [3 favorites]


I'm impressed with the dancing and really really REALLY creeped out by four unbroken minutes of staring at a little girl in the nude leotard.
Of course, I finally finished watching True Detective yesterday and had weird dreams about it all night, so ymmv.
posted by smartyboots at 1:02 PM on May 12 [2 favorites]


I love this song and the video. I've been replaying for days. I didn't get a pedo/sexy vibe from it, just that given the lyrics and the song it was interesting to get at it from this stripped down, neutral angle. It could easily have been a Miley "We Can't Stop" type hedonism-a-thon.

Also I haven't seen much of Dance Moms beyond a few eps and clips but this video can't be exploiting her any more than that show, with its cruelly competitive studio director, stage parents and the weird pageanty things they make the kids do.
posted by sweetkid at 1:02 PM on May 12


Ryan Heffington is an amazing choreographer. If you're in LA and up for a little modern dance, it's worth taking his class (or if you're lucky, catching a recital) at his studio, The Sweat Spot.
posted by roger ackroyd at 1:02 PM on May 12 [2 favorites]


There are an infinite number of ways to produce a music video. One with a prepubescent female dancing about in a nude leotard is probably one of the less optimal choices. Well, unless you are only in it for the money...
posted by jim in austin at 1:03 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]


Yes, the video will probably get two thumbs up from the pedophile contingent. I mean, did it really have to be a flesh-colored leotard?

Eh, if they were going after the pedo market I think they could have done a lot better job than this. I didn't see her as sexualized at all.

It's hard to remember when a Britney Spears in a school girl uniform was "shocking," but this has like 1% of the overt sexuality from those days. I just don't see it.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:04 PM on May 12 [3 favorites]


I get the feeling that in a few years saying "I don't watch reality shows" is going to be parsed the same way "I don't own a television" is nowadays.
posted by signal at 1:06 PM on May 12


jim in austin, has it occurred to you that the purpose of this video might not be to "get a rise" out of you? That you are not supposed to see this child as being presented sexually? That maybe, this is something you are bringing to the table?

The nude leotard is not sexy. It may be a stand in for nudity - although I see it as another way that she is de-featured; colored clothing would be a piece of personality that she is not allowed. Even if it is a stand-in for nudity, so what? There are many reasons that the human body may be nude in a piece of art and titillation is only one of them. The choice of a child performer and her non-sexualised, desperate, crazed movements and expressions should be a clue that this is not a sexy piece.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 1:23 PM on May 12 [14 favorites]


An 11-year-old in a flesh-colored leotard was chosen "for the money"? How does that make sense economically? If you want to exploit sexuality for money and controversy, throw topless adult women into your video like Robin Thicke did with the biggest hit of 2013.

(Except don't. Don't be like Robin Thicke.)

On preview: I agree that it's certainly an artistic choice. I don't know whether to read into it that the character is vulnerable or de-featured.
posted by knuckle tattoos at 1:25 PM on May 12 [3 favorites]


I kinda saw it as de-featured. She reminds me of a plastic doll without clothes. Devoid of personality, she is forced to manufacture it.

I also thought this was great in that it took a lot of the stupid shit any kid does to music when alone and bored and made it into a music video.
posted by cjorgensen at 1:34 PM on May 12 [4 favorites]


One with a prepubescent female dancing about in a nude leotard...

The video is really rather striking from a pure artistic perspective, so now that you've repeated your point a couple times, maybe you could let this derail go? You think it's a valid criticism, and a couple of us find it weird that you're reading the video in some kind of weirdly contorted "Well I don't find it to be but maybe pedophiles..." Agree to disagree?

I wish the show focused on the dancers' individual talents, but I guess no one would watch.

I've never watched this show, but yeah, I would totally watch a show that focused on talented, dedicated kids pursuing their respective crafts—art, sport, whatever. It's more of a subject for a documentary (and has been) than reality show, probably, but it seems like it could be adapted well. This kid dances with remarkable skill and abandon, and it would be fascinating to see how she developed to that point.
posted by cribcage at 1:43 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]


jim in austin, has it occurred to you that the purpose of this video might not be to "get a rise" out of you? That you are not supposed to see this child as being presented sexually? That maybe, this is something you are bringing to the table?

I do not see the child sexually. But I do see the child as potentially being presented sexually. There is a difference.

An 11-year-old in a flesh-colored leotard was chosen "for the money"? How does that make sense economically?

There is an old dictum in the biz: There is no such thing as bad publicity.

Summary: Everyone involved with this video was there for the money and that includes the little dancer. Any artistry or aesthetics are essentially incidental. This is, after all, a business...
posted by jim in austin at 1:46 PM on May 12


I don't know shit from shinola, but I saw the performance as that of a little girl, with little girl exuberance, who transforms into ... well, I don't know, probably Sia, or whatever Sia sees herself as. The beginning is all 11-year energy, jumping, playing, tumbling, but she becomes older throughout the video -- there are actually a couple of alluring moves, some gyrations if you will, and she even mimics being pregnant (rubbing her belly). She gets frustrated and she wants to return to being a girl. But she must perform, above all else. Perform, perform, and that eventually replaces the little girl. The end, where she puts on a mask and bows, and bows, and smiles, and bows, she's no longer a girl anymore. She has become the things you all have mentioned -- a marionette, a doll, an object. That's what I thought, at least. I thought it was fucking rad.
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 1:46 PM on May 12 [14 favorites]


I just watched it on my phone, so I'm missing whatever you need a large screen to see. That said, I didn't get a strong sexual vibe from it, though the wig and makeup were a bit incongruous.

The music is super meh, too poppy in the bland way for my tastes, and the dancing was nice enough in its way but not mind blowing at all.
posted by Dip Flash at 1:48 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]


Devoid of personality, she is forced to manufacture it.

This, totally. Also read the dancer as representing the singer's inner self, as vulnerable as a child and frantically avoiding whatever it is she needs to avoid, and is, in the choreography, painfully acting out grotesque charades of various social activities, painfully playing the role expected of the party girl facade she's using to help her avoidance:
Party girls don't get hurt
Can't feel anything, when will I learn
I push it down, push it down

[...] And I'm holding on for dear life, won't look down won't open my eyes
Keep my glass full until morning light, 'cause I'm just holding on for tonight
Those are not happy things to say. Regardless, the choreography and the performance of it in this video are remarkable and hugely expressive.

On preview: I really like (A)H&(W)O's reading.
posted by LooseFilter at 1:49 PM on May 12 [2 favorites]


N Stagg has some relevant considerations in a V Magazine commentary:
"Here, Maddie Ziegler is a mini-Sia in wig and pink hand paint, trapped in a dingy apartment. No drinking or chandelier-swinging occur, and no filling of cups until the sun comes up, but Dance Moms star Ziegler looks incredibly mature during this expressive routine, not once breaking character for a kiddish moment, and even more impressively, not resorting to sex-fueled adult-bodied mimickery, either. The morbid part of this visual isn't so much the horror movie-inspired movements of a girl about the same age as that fast-motion monster in The Ring, but the parallels drawn between a seriously camera-shy recovering addict and a reality TV child star breaking away from the show's overbearing and admittedly attention-seeking mothers. Is that a light at the end of this tunnel, near the end of the video? Looks like it, but Ziegler's creepy wind-up toy moves might suggest instead only an acceptance of its inherent darkness."
posted by progosk at 1:57 PM on May 12 [6 favorites]


I watched the video and what I saw was a little girl living in a fairly squalid (and certainly restricted) environment with a need to do something to express herself. Maybe she's dreaming big - of the time when she might actually have a chance to swing from a chandelier. Does she take dance classes? Is that the only hope she has of ever getting out of this life?

There's something poignant, even sad, about the video. Taken at face value, there's no guarantee that this kid will ever even get to dance this way in front of an audience, much less move on to a better life.

The thing I enjoyed most about the choreography was that, mixed in with some very challenging and lovely dance moves, there was a good deal of just dancing like a kid. Good. Kids should be able to dance like kids when they want to. Heck, we adults should get to dance like that sometimes, too.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:08 PM on May 12 [4 favorites]


It was clear to me from the moment the dancer appeared that she was a child and the dancing is not sexualized. I am a little confused and yes, disturbed, that this is getting read as sexual nonetheless.

It's how Americans view nudity and tight-fitting, revealing clothing. We can thank the Puritanical founders of this country (among others). If a person is nude, it necessarily equates to sex. If a person is wearing tight-fitting, revealing clothing, it must mean that sex is soon on the way.

This is the same nation whose Attorney General, who would give speeches with a bare-breasted statue in the background, had the offending breasts covered up. Because bare breasts--even in the realm of classical art--equals sex...or something.

We're better off ignoring those who have these sensibilities upset by this video. That's their problem.
posted by zardoz at 2:23 PM on May 12 [8 favorites]


I am a little confused and yes, disturbed, that this is getting read as sexual nonetheless.

She is wearing adult makeup and has crimped eyelashes. (pause 3:03)

One feature that distinguishes adult males and females is the luminescent contrast between the lips and the skin. It is a secondary sexual characteristic that arises at puberty. Lipstick functions to exaggerate this sex difference.

Lipstick on a prepubescent girl is mimicking a sexual trait that occurs after puberty.
posted by dgaicun at 2:25 PM on May 12 [2 favorites]


I do not see the child sexually. But I do see the child as potentially being presented sexually. There is a difference.

This isn't really a response to what I wrote; I explicitly asked whether it occurred to you that she is not being presented sexually. You have not yet explained why you think she is potentially being presented sexually, other than the fact that she is in a nude leotard - and I've explained why I find that very unsatisfying.

I can't see anything in the video that suggests she's being presented sexually, and the only explanation I can see for your interpretation is an expectation that female performers are there to sexually titillate. The reading of all female nudity (of course she isn't actually nude) is just another aspect of this.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 2:25 PM on May 12 [3 favorites]


Jesus, this is upsetting. Sorry, guys. I apologize for the derail; I'm not going to comment anymore.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 2:27 PM on May 12 [2 favorites]


I'm sorry, but I found it upsetting too.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:39 PM on May 12


You have not yet explained why you think she is potentially being presented sexually, other than the fact that she is in a nude leotard - and I've explained why I find that very unsatisfying.

Let me turn it back around. Would there have been any less intellectual, artistic or aesthetic content to the video if she had been wearing colored calf-length Danskins? No? Then why the attempt to simulate or at least imply nudity? What could have been the purpose? What could the videographer hoped to have gained?
posted by jim in austin at 2:39 PM on May 12


Then why the attempt to simulate or at least imply nudity? What could have been the purpose? What could the videographer hoped to have gained?

Innocence, universality, vulnerability, literally millions of things. I have no insight as to what the artist intended. But I am certain there was intent, and to narrow it down to "obvs titillation" is to deny the myriad possible reasons for such a decision. Personally I saw it as innocence/vulnerability, but that's what cool about art. I get to see it the way I see it, and that's what it means to me. Art!
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 2:45 PM on May 12 [9 favorites]


[I think if we're to the point in the conversation where you're asking the same question you've already been asking and then ignoring other people's responses to reassert the same answer you've already given, it's time to leave it as point made and go do something else.]
posted by cortex at 2:51 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]


I watched the video and what I saw was a little girl living in a fairly squalid (and certainly restricted) environment

I thought that the apartment looked abandoned. Debris on the floor, and what furniture is there is pretty sparse - nothing that would be worth taking. There are pictures on the fridge, though, so a family must have once lived there.

The impression I got from the costume of the girl is that of a doll. The fakey blond wig, the "sweet" makeup in pinks, and even the contrast between the fabric on her torso and the bare skin on her limbs reminds me of some of the cloth-bodied child dolls I had as a kid. I thought "doll that was left behind when the place was abandoned."

I don't think she's getting out of there.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 2:51 PM on May 12 [12 favorites]


Oddly, I am reminded of Zhora's Death from Blade Runner.
posted by breadbox at 2:51 PM on May 12 [7 favorites]


Alternative video, which features a handsome, thoroughly clever, perfectly plump man in his prime swinging from a chandelier (via Sia's tumblr).
posted by effbot at 2:56 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]


Oddly, I am reminded of Zhora's Death from Blade Runner.

I assumed the intended comparison was to the killer blonde marionette android who does the flips later in the movie.
posted by Dip Flash at 3:13 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]


A lot of that looked like just another day around the house with our 5-year-old.
posted by gottabefunky at 3:17 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]


I loved the choice to use a talented child dancer in this video. There's no doubt Ziegler is a beautiful and skilled dancer, and on top of that, a hell of a good performer/actor too. But I especially loved that as a young dancer, there's something unfinished and frantic about her movements, places where you can see that she hasn't quite grown into the steps: moves that would be effortlessly graceful and lovely on a dancer who has grown into her body, but that seem incomplete and a little forced with her small frame. It's a big part of what makes this video so effective and affecting. This is a dark video and song, and the choreography and Ziegler's performance are integral to that.
posted by yasaman at 3:25 PM on May 12 [10 favorites]


I hope that this is an appropriate addition to the discussion about appropriateness; if you do not perceive it as such please delete, mods.

I get to see it the way I see it, and that's what it means to me.

I definitely agree with you about this, (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates, and agree that this is a necessary (and awesome) factor of artwork. As a thirty-two year old man, however, I personally find that the danger of being incorrectly perceived as sexually attracted to children makes such things as a young woman who looks as though she may be nude a bit off-putting.

I haven't watched the full video, all of that being said, and will be very surprised and pleased if there are many more videos released this year that are as distinctive as this one.
posted by mr. digits at 4:21 PM on May 12


Sia is so amazing.

I look forward to the rest of the album.

More songs that I'll get the chords for and (like those posted above me) will find out I don't have the range to sing.
posted by surplus at 4:43 PM on May 12


The whole apartment is decorated in dull shades of beige. A colored leotard would have stood out and made the girl "other" than her surroundings, when in fact she is part of them, trapped by them.

There is nothing remotely sexual about her dancing, what the fuck. Every kid dances like that. I danced around my house like that when I was 6 or 8 or 10. (Mostly to Olivia Newton John and Michael Jackson.) She just has the training and flexibility to be able to do more gymnastic moves. Every girl that age tries on mom's makeup, too.
posted by desjardins at 5:02 PM on May 12 [5 favorites]


Anyway, you might enjoy the recent NYT Magazine article on Sia, which I don't see linked here.

Might want to check your prescription, but Sia's so nice, we can link her twice.
posted by cashman at 5:19 PM on May 12


Well there's a video that I never want to see again. Way too creepy for me.
posted by octothorpe at 5:23 PM on May 12


Thank you for posting this. That video was beautiful (egads I've never been able to dance, and that was amazing) and I wasn't familiar with Sia. Now I am, and I've VERY glad of it.
posted by bibliogrrl at 5:31 PM on May 12


Yeah, this is more proof that I've been living under a rock, because I never heard of Sia before this post. Not really the kind of music I listen to, but she stands out somehow. My wife's gonna love it.
posted by zardoz at 5:42 PM on May 12


>the wig and makeup were a bit incongruous.

Look at the other links. That's how the vocalist looks. There's a bit of an obvious metaphor going on there.
posted by anti social order at 6:38 PM on May 12 [2 favorites]


Might want to check your prescription, but Sia's so nice, we can link her twice.

Funny that you mention it, because I typed that comment, poor grammar and all, after returning from the eye doctor. And no, I am not kidding.

posted by mudpuppie at 6:54 PM on May 12


I too will admit to not knowing who either of the players were; singer or dancer, but I am absolutely entranced by them both. The sheer talent of the dancer is amazing for her age, and the singer hits my emotional octave...that mystical range that makes me misty. I think the video is beautiful and haunting and evocative, and I'm glad it was posted, else I would never have known about it.
posted by dejah420 at 6:59 PM on May 12


Funny, while watching the video Effbot linked to I was more focused on listening to the music and not trying to figure out if the girl was improvising her off-puttingly semi-robotic dance moves.

Clearly the video and the song require a lot of Sia backstory (knowing what she looks like, knowing that she is camera shy and a former addict, etc.) to really appreciate. There wasn't much of a hook there for people unfamiliar with her and her work.
posted by grumpybear69 at 8:06 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]


I really like this (watched the video at work without sound and didn't think I would, but it's pretty cool).

Also kind of weird for me to think it's so cool to see this, partially because there IS the illusion of a small, naked girl dancing around an abandoned house, an image that I pretty strongly identify with as an erstwhile small girl (and I love what it's doing with Sia's image, also); but the fact that a small girl in a leotard can't exist without being called smutty is weird to me, and also that I just went to MoMa last week and saw a hundred painted naked small girls, and no one called those out because you know, great art and all. The whole thing is kind of nauseating.
posted by stoneandstar at 8:15 PM on May 12 [3 favorites]


I knew what she looks like and her music (Breathe Me was HUGE when it came out) but I didn't know about the addiction or camera shyness and I loved the video - the dancing, choreography, weird set.

It's just different strokes, you know? For different folks. Also the FPP has lots of information.

Not meant in a snarky way I just don't think it's accurate to say you need to know Sia's whole backstory to connect with this. I think it's pretty moving as a piece of artwork all on its own. But having backstory helps give it a different context.
posted by sweetkid at 8:15 PM on May 12 [3 favorites]


Sure, there is lots to like in the video itself, especially if you are into lonely interiors (I am) and modern dance* (I'm not), but I felt like there was a lot of information there which I was unable to parse. After doing research and learning about her the video made a lot more sense. Which is good! Many levels, etc., like all good art. From a pop video perspective, though, it doesn't have a clear hook to draw in potential new viewers other than "girl dances strangely around empty apartment."

The fact that it has 5,000,000+ views, though, means my POV is potentially irrelevant.

* it probably isn't called modern dance anymore but I really know nothing about the art form so please forgive my inaccurate terminology.
posted by grumpybear69 at 9:13 PM on May 12


[Kevlar]
Just a comment on the music, forget the video. I'm not gettin' what all the fuss is about with this music. Auto-tuned, heavily-processed vocals with your typical 21st-century overproduced Hollywood pop pablum melody and heavy-percussion backing track. Yes? And the point is?
[/Kevlar]
posted by brianstorms at 10:20 PM on May 12


I guess this is one of those times when I'm simply out of tune with the majority.Both the video and the song seem utterly boring to me.
posted by mannequito at 10:24 PM on May 12


It's an amazing video - I'd especially like to call out the camera work as being exceptional too. In some ways the camera was as much a dancer as the girl.
posted by schwa at 10:30 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]


It would be so great if we avoid turning this into a discussion about whether or not this tremendously talented young dancer ought to have worn something different to stop unsuspecting men from getting inappropriate boners.

I loved this specifically because popular culture so rarely portrays women or girls dancing for the fun of dancing; it's always about making themselves attractive, specifically sexually attractive to men. The girl in this video isn't dancing for anyone in particular, and I think her unselfconsciousness is what makes the video so enchanting. For me it evoked memories of childhood, of that magical time before puberty when your body is truly yours, and its value is in what it can do, not what others might want to do to it; before the objectifying behaviour of men and boys starts teaching you to think of your body primarily as something that others may or may not want to fuck.

I have absolutely been that little girl - nowhere near as talented a dancer, of course, but I remember taking advantage of moments of solitude by dancing around with abandon, experimenting with how my body could twirl and bend and jump, simply because moving your body is a fun thing to do and it's more fun when there's no-one around who might think you look silly. And if there's no-one around, then why not be naked, or nearly naked? It's your own damn body and you're alone, so who cares? I think this kind of goofing off is something a lot of kids do, even those (like me) with no pretensions that they would ever dance for others. Maybe we'd all be a bit happier if we occasionally danced like that as adults, too.
posted by embrangled at 10:51 PM on May 12 [20 favorites]


I fucking love Sia. Her voice is incredible; Breathe Me just kills me.

As for the girl: I'm astounded by some perceptions on here. I think that leotard, and in fact her entire presentation, is the least sexy thing ever. The hair is an obvious wig, the leotard is not spangled or low-cut at the top or high-cut on the thigh...it's flesh tones are actually deliberately de-sexualizing, IMO - they make her body look like that of a plastic child-doll. That, plus being flat-chested, makes her appear completely non-sexual.

Also, she's eleven. That's a child, not a 'young woman', as someone called her upthread.
posted by Salamander at 11:34 PM on May 12 [12 favorites]


Brilliant choreography. Exceedingly excellent dance performance. Maddie Ziegler is an intensley engaging and rewarding dancer and performer. Her fluidity and expression reminded me of indigenous Australian dancers, the little I have seen of them. The similarity was a freedom from westen expression which is, essentially, about control. There was a sense of absolute expression made physical as if to process emotion, just like children and the child in all of us can and will do if given the space and privacy.

I am tired the male gaze, and the investigation of a female's every move to discern whether she is engaging in sexualised presentation, action or behaviour. The male gaze is a social panopticon that imprisons women within sets of expectations and blame profiles. It zooms in and locks on to one aspect of ourselves, our gender, and views everything about us through that one narrow lens. Many women and not all men view people through the lens of the male gaze, it's that prevalent. It's so prevalent that exhibits of female physicality that don't pander to it, or at least acknowledge it covertly, are concern trolled for their potential subtle sexualised content; content which in this and many cases lies only in the eyes of the beholder.

Imagine, just for an awesome moment, what every woman on the internet, heck the world! could have achieved if she hadn't been burdened day after day, generation after generation, with the demands of the male gaze. It's indescribably insidious. When you think about it deeply, what are elements of Sharia law but the male gaze given legal rights.

So, please, shut the fuck up and just let us enjoy being humans who can do whatever we want or need to do to express ourselves. STOP gazing at us, we don't exist for critique. View us as humans first and firemost and consider us as individuals long before you look for our gender and way way before you seek evidence of sexualised expression.

Tl;dr. Awesome choreography and dance and get your male gaze right the fuck away from this work of art and talent.
posted by Kerasia at 5:26 AM on May 13 [34 favorites]


I am tired the male gaze, and the investigation of a female's every move to discern whether she is engaging in sexualised presentation, action or behaviour.

This. The appropriate response to a woman or girl doing something on the internet is NEVER to give your verdict on whether you would or would not like to fuck her. There are so, so many ways that an artistic or cultural work can be critiqued and explored; the precise status of your penis in response to it is literally THE LEAST INTERESTING thing you could possibly contribute to the discussion.

And yet, there it is, in the comments on every YouTube video, photograph or newspaper article in which a woman appears: endless dudebros weighing in on whether or not she is fuckable and why. Stop it. Just stop it. Unravelling that objectifying bullshit from my own sense of self and from the selves of young girls I care about is work that I, as a woman, would rather I did not have to do.
posted by embrangled at 6:34 AM on May 13 [12 favorites]


I think this song is great, and the video makes it better. It's going to be the high point of my day. Thanks for posting it! Bummer about the comments section this time around.
posted by The Minotaur at 12:28 PM on May 13 [2 favorites]


Maddie Ziegler was my revelation yesterday, and today it's Dušan Krtolica. He is also eleven.

So okay, I just give up.
posted by cribcage at 12:46 PM on May 13 [1 favorite]


Every kid dances like that. ... Every girl that age tries on mom's makeup, too.

Of course they don't. I hate how everyone on the internet falls into overbroad generalisations so easily. Would it kill us all to throw in a 'lots of' instead of 'all'?

see what I did there
posted by the agents of KAOS at 2:44 PM on May 13 [1 favorite]


Funny, while watching the video Effbot linked to I was more focused on listening to the music and not trying to figure out if the girl was improvising her off-puttingly semi-robotic dance moves.

Clearly the video and the song require a lot of Sia backstory (knowing what she looks like, knowing that she is camera shy and a former addict, etc.) to really appreciate. There wasn't much of a hook there for people unfamiliar with her and her work.


I knew nothing about Sia except that I apparently had heard her in Zero 7 albums before. I thoroughly enjoyed the video. The dancing was exceptional and such a combination of childlike dancing, professional motions, and other moves that I was in awe as well as taking in the scenery of the video. It worked well with the song too though I can take or leave the song though the video should absolutely have it.

I mostly agree with Arsenio Hall and Warren Oates interpretation as well.
posted by lizarrd at 5:31 PM on May 13


"I'm not gettin' what all the fuss is about with this music.

For me, I think it's how her songs inspire people to sing. I really like some of the YouTube covers of "Titanium", for example. There's hundreds of them.
posted by surplus at 9:55 PM on May 13


Holy shit is right. That is some dancing.

From a pop video perspective, though, it doesn't have a clear hook to draw in potential new viewers other than "girl dances strangely around empty apartment."

Change strangely to amazingly and you've got it.

Clearly the video and the song require a lot of Sia backstory (knowing what she looks like, knowing that she is camera shy and a former addict, etc.) to really appreciate.

I know nothing about Sia except the Six Feet Under finale. I am the father of two girls who don't dance quite as well. I liked it. Great choreography; great performance. I watched it twice.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:45 PM on May 16 [2 favorites]


Maddie and Sia recreated the music video on Ellen.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:43 AM on May 20 [2 favorites]


Pretty interesting idea, to recreate the video live. Sia there/not-there also a good call. (TV-added underwear... count me unsurprised.)
posted by progosk at 1:59 PM on May 20


(TV-added underwear... count me unsurprised.)

Yeah it made her look topless, which is another of those examples of how the morality police make things more gross somehow instead of leaving well enough alone.

That performance made me cry, mostly because damn does that girl love to dance, and you can completely tell.
posted by sweetkid at 6:23 PM on May 20


Yeah it made her look topless, which is another of those examples of how the morality police make things more gross somehow instead of leaving well enough alone.

Woah, no kidding. The addition of the underwear/shorts really changes the look, and not in a good way.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:15 PM on May 20 [1 favorite]


Chandelier - "Sad Clown with the Golden Voice" Sia Cover ft. Puddles

(Warning - Clowns)
posted by cashman at 9:07 PM on May 27 [1 favorite]


This guy gets it.
posted by roger ackroyd at 4:06 PM on June 3 [2 favorites]


I enjoyed that, roger ackroyd.
posted by sweetkid at 6:01 PM on June 3


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