"Now, ten years on, everybody else has learned to sound like Sia."
November 6, 2018 10:25 PM   Subscribe

While producers like Max Martin get most of the credit for shaping the sound of pop music, equal credit if not more belongs to topliners like Sia. As demo vocalists, they shape the sound of pop most directly; their bodies literally generate it. Pop singers often mimic these demo vocalists exactly, and no one notices (unless some enterprising leaker posts the demo to YouTube). But when that vocalist has a voice as distinctive as Sia's, you notice.
posted by Johnny Wallflower (22 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's odd that the article discusses how Sia's "Breathe Me" success in 2004 was driven by TV soundtracks but contains no mention of her vocalist work on the 1997 sleeper smash "Destiny" by Zero 7, because that song was EVERYWHERE in soundtracks.
posted by nicebookrack at 11:08 PM on November 6 [11 favorites]


I was mesmerised by the 'how to sing Chandelier' tutorial embedded in the 'affectionate meme' link in the article. The singing trainer (voice finder), Felicia Ricci, is not taking the piss out of Sia when she suggests that the refrain be sung as Ahm gohna sween frahna chehndolee frahna chehndolee. She talks a lot about Sia's phrasing in that song and which part of the head, throat and chest you would sing with to sound like Sia. Fascinating.
posted by Thella at 12:46 AM on November 7 [17 favorites]


Tangential confession time: I didn't know that was Sia singing with Zero 7 until THIS YEAR. I own multiple Zero 7 albums as well as Colour the Small One, from Sia's pre-Chandelier days. Yeeeeesh.
posted by cage and aquarium at 5:38 AM on November 7 [3 favorites]


Rainbow featuring Sia.
posted by SPrintF at 5:40 AM on November 7


I was just thinking yesterday how much Bebe Rexha sounds like Sia.
posted by ocherdraco at 6:51 AM on November 7 [1 favorite]


chehndolee frahna chehndolee

Happen to have a tab open here, dialect-dissection-indie-girl-voice.

Seems that missing "r" in chandelier is key, a property known as rhoticity.
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:51 AM on November 7 [6 favorites]


Strictly speaking, non-rhoticity in Sia's case, as she's an Aussie.

Thanks for this thread—it indirectly gave me the heads-up about her collaboration with Labrinth and Diplo, and their four new songs (Spotify).
posted by rory at 6:58 AM on November 7 [3 favorites]


That "How to sing Chandelier" -- when the presenter gives the new pronunciations without the tones, it sounds like a person speaking in a foreign accent to me. And I'm always surprised when singers from the UK sound really normal to my American English ears. Like, Chvrches are pretty Scottish, but I only hear it in a couple of vowels. Almost as though she's singing in an American accent. Is Sia singing in a foreign accent too?
posted by dbx at 8:15 AM on November 7


Is Sia singing in a foreign accent too?

Yeah, we swing from chandeliuhs in Oz.
posted by rory at 8:49 AM on November 7 [3 favorites]


Also you don't pronounce the r in French
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 8:53 AM on November 7


And I'm always surprised when singers from the UK sound really normal to my American English ears.

I agree re: Chvrches and I had the same thing with Shirley Manson of Garbage back in the day too. Meanwhile there are British singers whose accents I can easily detect in their songs, so I'm not really sure what's going on.
posted by chrominance at 8:54 AM on November 7 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile there are British singers whose accents I can easily detect in their songs, so I'm not really sure what's going on.

There are a lot of theories about that!
posted by a fiendish thingy at 9:34 AM on November 7 [2 favorites]


This reminds me of how a few years ago, someone "discovered" pre-fame Mariah Carey doing a demo version of a generic 80s tune, in which she sounds incredible (she is 18 at the most here, geez) but also funny because it doesn't sound quite like Mariah because she hasn't Become Mariah yet. And of course, she then exploded and within years most pop singers were chasing that sound.
posted by nakedmolerats at 9:41 AM on November 7 [3 favorites]


Most of what the dialect-dissection-indie-girl-voice link that StickyCarpet posted above is what I've always interpreted as singers trying to sound jazzy and/or like Billie Holiday. Am I really the only person who hears that?
posted by smartyboots at 11:22 AM on November 7 [2 favorites]


Dunno. It all comes across as marble-mouthed to me. Sorry?
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 1:37 PM on November 7 [1 favorite]


(Correction Note: "Destiny" by Zero 7 was released in 2001, not 1997 as I stated above; no idea where I got that date. Sia also co-wrote the song. Still three years before "Breathe Me"!)
posted by nicebookrack at 1:51 PM on November 7


Am I really the only person who hears that?

Yeah, they are adding syncopation. Also fitting words that don't necessarily rhyme into rhymes either due to laziness (negative interpretation) or because they are songs, not poems (positive interpretation). And it's pretty common in all genres of music, not just pop-indie girl voice singers. I personally dig it. I love it when they call out their own terrible grammar, odd pronunciation, or made up words in song.

Johnny Horton Cherokee Boogie built a career out of syncopating and pronouncing words incorrectly/musically. Compare Horton to Hank Williams Sr in the same song.
posted by The_Vegetables at 3:00 PM on November 7 [1 favorite]


One thing I learned while singing is that due to how and where vocal performances are (in the "mask," throat, mouth, head, chest, diaphragm), there's a bit of auditory illusion that occurs in the audience, and certain sounds need to be over- or- under-emphasized by the vocalist in order for people to hear them correctly. This is especially prominent on S and R, and the breath mechanics will help the audience "fill in" the missing consonants, and actually pronouncing them muddies up the sound.
this is a choral amateur's understanding
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:09 PM on November 7 [3 favorites]


Misreading the title as "everybody else has learned to sound like Ska" gives a very different image of where the article is going to go, a confusing one.
posted by Four Ds at 6:02 PM on November 7 [1 favorite]


I LOVE ZERO 7 SO MUCH and it's definitely almost exclusively because of Sia, but I had no idea about a lot of this, about just how much of a footprint she's had. So wow, thanks for this post.
posted by hypersloth at 7:20 PM on November 7


Metafilter is really doing a number on me for music tonight. I've heard Sia's name, and maybe her music, but I've never been aware of her before now. Wow. (And ain't that dancer something else?)
posted by lhauser at 7:59 PM on November 7 [1 favorite]


I had no idea that it was Sia in Zero 7, but I just had to think of the song in my head to know for sure it was true.
posted by sleeping bear at 3:04 PM on November 8 [1 favorite]


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