Note: This post was updated on April 2015 to add Big Girls Cry and Elastic Heart to this Chandelier analysis because why not
If you’ve ever watched Sia’s video series for her songs Chandelier, Elastic Heart and Big Girls Cry, those of you unfamiliar with the concept of interpretive modern dance will think the kid in the flesh-colored leotard Maddie Ziegler needs to be shipped to an institute pronto. Now you can relax, because that’s not the case. In fact, this ‘crazy’ dance is what you get when you literally try to choreograph the chaotic thoughts of a party girl, two warring mental states and lastly, suicidal thoughts.
What, you expected them to look pretty? This isn’t bubblegum pop. It’s someone’s reality.
Chandelier: Anti-Party Tune
Sun is up, I’m a mess
Gotta get out now, gotta run from this
Here comes the shame, here comes the shame
Chandelier is a song laced with self-reflecting vocals, a haunting melody and tribal escalations that give a solemn feel. What’s more, its lyrics tell us the exact thoughts going on inside a girl with an alcoholism problem. Time and again she tries to tell herself that she shouldn’t it anymore, but peer pressure, lust, need for love always brings her back, convincing her that she can handle anything, that she should live life while the moment is there. In one word, addiction.
In contrast to the sexy, sizzling club atmosphere that we’d expect this kind of song to feature, the video does the contrary. A very, very unattractive looking house. And a little girl. Why?
This very image reminds us of a hangover. This is exactly the feeling she has about herself after a night of excessive drinking – wasted, ugly, abandoned like a used mannequin, and full of regret as she’s likely barfing all of last night into the toilet. As the sun comes up, reality sets in. The shame, the guilt, the fear if she got pregnant, and all that as she feels naked and vulnerable.
So why does she keep coming back?
I’m the one “for a good time call”
Phone’s blowin’ up, they’re ringin’ my doorbell
I feel the love, feel the love
Ah. Popularity and bad company.
This is where the evils of fake friends truly come to light. For a typical ‘party girl’ who knows how to look sexy, fun and is an easy flirt, her popularity will soar. Her Instagram will get tons of likes, maybe even land her a profitable modeling gig. Boys and girls will “ringing” her “doorbell” to play with her. They’ll compliment and adore her, and she’ll “feel the love”.
Chandelier’s Cruel Irony #1:
Everyone in general is just looking to exploit her in some way. Boys are just looking to hit on her. She’s just the person for a “good time call”, which means eye candy, lots of partying and good sex. Businesses are just making money off her looks. Girls just wanna gossip about her. She knows all this, but ego kicks in and she’s filled with the false hope that perhaps, with all her popularity, surely she’s the lady in charge?
Notice what happens every time it’s the chorus?
I’m gonna swing from the chandelier, from the chandelier
I’m gonna live like tomorrow doesn’t exist
Like it doesn’t exist
I’m gonna fly like a bird through the night, feel my tears as they dry
Sia always sings this part the loudest, like she’s trying to drown out all the regret from the previous verse. Maddie becomes a marionette, her hands automatically moving to down bottles to the beat. Just as her addictive chorus musically hooks us in, the alcohol to her is just as irresistible…if not worse. She’s popular but her bad company’s the one truly in charge, immersing her in this “party girl” culture.
I was really unhappy being an artist. I was always a drinker but I didn’t know I was an alcoholic. Then I got seriously addicted to Vicodin and Oxycodone.
– Sia Furler, Billboard Magazine
Those two drugs are good painkillers, but bad news if they become habits. This is something that too many will be able to relate to, as the use of highly addictive and strong painkillers increases amongst many. It is important that this is highlighted, as these drugs can lead to the destruction of many people’s lives, including loss of work (through random drug tests administered, like this hair follicle test) and loss of loved ones. But why should you care about consequence if you can’t feel pain? The verses leading up to it might be peppered with some regret “when will I learn” or fear “I’m holding on for dear life”, but all you hear in the chorus is just pure thrill. But that’s why Sia chose Maddie for the video. In all those times of regret, she probably felt like a helpless little girl, but maybe she’d also silently wished that could go back to that age, when “a good time call” and “love” was more…innocent. So she sings.
On the other hand, Maddie probably wants all of the big “party girl” privileges that Sia has, more freedom, being able to drink and meet cute boys in a huge party. Of course, as a child she’d be blissfully unaware of all the bad consequences big girls have to endure when party girls do get hurt. So she dances.
We might forget that this is an anti-partying anthem. And the problem was never that she partied and got drunk, that’s actually fine, but it’s the fact that it became a habit.
As freedom approaches, imprisonment becomes outspoken.
— sia (@Sia) September 4, 2014
Chandelier’s Cruel Irony #2:
As a big girl, the freedom of drinking became imprisonment when she got addicted. The repetition she gives herself “on for tonight”, her ego in believing “party girls don’t get hurt”, her skewed image of freedom as she flies “like a bird” on the fancy chandelier, her need to “feel the love” from her
bad hot company are all part of the excuses chaining her. We all have this desire to know how much we can take, and the belief that this time will be better than the last. Come on, live like tomorrow doesn’t exist. Come on, it’s just on for tonight.
Elastic Heart: Big Brother’s Song
To read this video properly, you have to be in a kind of Jungian mindset. Which is actually pretty easy since it just features a duality concept. See, if you saw the 28-year old man Shia and 12-year old girl Maddie as father and daughter, a woman and her animus, kid and adult side, inner angel and demon, Eminem and Slim Shady, or heck, even if you’re sticking to the pedobear and little girl viewpoint…you are all correct. It’s what the images provoked, and it’s what they looked like to you. However, what they are is simply this:
These two warring 'sia' self states.
— sia (@Sia) January 8, 2015
Manifested in the form you saw in the video. And both have good and evil sides.
Untamed, graceful and childlike. She’s small, looks vulnerable, but is a force to be reckoned with. She knows Beard Man wants to claim authority over her, to control her like man claims monarchy of the animal kingdom. But she can sense his fear, and lashes out with all her might to send him scurrying for the roof. Another one bites the dust. Spent, she rests as great wolfs do but the man returns, with an alluring gift.
“You did not break me…I’m still fighting for peace”
However, she senses the ruse and manages to strike first. But this time he was not to be intimidated, fighting back with an alien strength. Still, her agility allowed her to escape. As she watches from afar, he calms down. She’s compelled to free him. She wants his protective embrace. He’s got thick skin and an elastic heart, so she plays and lets him have fun. But when she tries to bring him out, she realizes he’s stubborn. So she pulls.
“I’m like a rubberband until you pull too hard…but you won’t see me fall apart.”
Composed, rigid and serious. He’s big, strong and intelligent but fears the unknown, primal nature of Wolf Girl. Still, he tries to tame her as man conquers Mother Nature, only to be overwhelmed by sheer force and flee to the roof of the cage, hanging on for dear life. But later, he sees that she’s fallen asleep. Another one bites the dust. Seeing the opportunity, he tries yet again to coax, only to be bitten.
“You did not break me…I’m still fighting for peace”
Bruised and insulted, he confronts her directly now with the full intent of imposing law and order. But just when he had her, she escapes out of his reach. Clearly frustrated, he lashes out until he’s exhausted. But she came back, letting him embrace her, even knocking some fun expressions onto his face. She tries to bring him out, but he’s afraid of the law…it might be too sharp. So he pulls back.
“I’m like a rubberband until you pull too hard…but you won’t see me fall apart.”
This shit is so deep you can tell when your own Beard Man and Wolf Girl are going at it. The emotions, which we agree that Shia and Maddie portrayed quite brilliantly, will ripple through your entire being. They were never going to kill each other, because they can’t. As they fight in your head, they beg you to listen, to adopt them, to choose them over the other one. As a result, you have moments where you beat yourself up, push yourself, love yourself, so you have something to write about in your diary.
What makes you so sure that little girls are always the victim?
And I wanted it, I wanted it bad
But there were so many red flags
Now another one bites the dust
Yeah let’s be clear, I’ll trust no one
Is there a personality that is perfect? There are times when it’s good to be Wolf Girl, but there’s also times that you should be Beard Man. However, if you stay with one of them too long you’ll become attached, always relying on, believing it’s the chosen one you wanted so bad, ignoring the so many red flags until they eventually become your weakness…then another one bites the dust. It’s hard to lose a chosen one. Your inner conflicts happen because they let you survive.
But that doesn’t mean you need to hate them. It all boils down to the stereotyping of the “big bad wolf” and “little red riding hood”, even when we’re aware that humans kill more wolves then they hurt us, and little girls aren’t always innocent. But it’s all part of the package. You need to love them, but no more.
Let’s be clear, you’ll trust no one that claims to be a saint. Even yourself.
Essentially I see them as the same person…the cage is kind of the skull, beating yourself up, loving to yourself.
Ryan Heffington, Choreographer
Wolf Girl and Beard Man will always seek to conquer one another. You embrace your inner angels, drawing upon their warmth for comfort and courage but careful never to spend too long in utopia. You subdue your inner demons, showing them that they are the ones trapped in the cage, not you, but evoking their strength and cunning when facing adversity. But there’s always there, fighting each other to gain you. You can’t destroy them, because they are still a part of you.
So you let them fight, and watch that neither takes over.
Big Girls Cry: Heart’s Melody
In that similar, solemn undertone that took us on an emotional ride on the Chandelier, Big Girls Cry is a very tearful song. It tells us of a persona that you’ve never acknowledged, one that you deemed a weakness that must not exist, one that you kept silent at all costs. Everything you’ve kept hidden all along under that tough feminine mask, including your fears, emotions and weaknesses. The music, the lyrics and the video put together…is that black box recording you never wanted to show the world.
But somehow Sia found it.
Tough girl, in the fast lane
No time for love, no time for hate
No drama, no time, for games
You know what these words mean, thanks to Hip Hop music. They are the anthem of the female hustler, women who run the world.
If you thought that video was intense, know that it mirrors all that “pain” perfectly. It’s what she’s facing inside even as she looks formidable outside. There’s so many problems that girls “at the top” face, but she can never show it, because she’s a “tough girl” – so it gets bottled up.
From the ridiculous pace of her actions, we can see she’s is so busy that she doesn’t even have the time to properly mime her actions to match the music. Yes, there’s some effort there, but her finger crawling, head bobbing doesn’t sweetly match the percussion. It’s even more skewed than Chandelier – we could at least predict what she’d do in the chorus. Nothing is organized. It all happens too fast.
That’s life in the fast lane. No love, no hate, no drama and no games.
Big Girl Chapter #1: Act Busy
0:01 I’m ready to take on the world baby
0:12 Oh, I can still look more perfect?
0:25 My teeth must be perfect
0:33 Fancy cigar time, look like a boss
0:40 This make-up must, must be perfect
Part one sees her going all the extra mile to be pretty, from looks to habits she’s sculpted into the perfect lady. There’s not much time for anything else, as you can see in her schedule.
I’m at home, On my own
Check my phone, Nothing though
Act busy, Order in
Pay TV…It’s agony
Big Girl Chapter #2: It’s Lonely, It’s Agony
1:17 Check-ups and more check ups
1:33 Painkillers as a remedy
1:37 Screaming to vent out all that anger
1:42 Oh so dizzy…
Human. Tired and exhausted, Maddie slowly gets up as Sia tones down her vocals after that intense chorus. However, someone like her can’t afford to sleep. She seeks all the wrong treatments, and her health deteriorates…
Big Girl Chapter #3: I’m In Pain
1:57 Enter the feminine entity with evil hands
2:01 Forced into submission
2:08 Forced into silence
2:13 It shows her what real agony is
As if she’d gone too far by uttering the word “agony”, the mysterious femme fatale steps in, and like some horror movie the music’s volume escalates into chorus as its hands manipulate her face, shuts her mouth from more tirades “I don’t care if I don’t look pretty” and “cry”, in the end choosing to bring her close to death itself…as if it was her own personal mafia teaching her a lesson.
Big Girl Chapter #4: I Wake Up, I Wake Up
2:30 Bad memories flood
2:40 Self-loathing and self-harm
2:53 Laughter is the best medicine, no?
3:00 Wants to cry, but forces herself not stop
3:15 Just…stupefied in the end
Ah, repetition. As we get used to Sia’s “I Wake Up” monotone, Maddie goes into overdrive with emotion, engaging in all sorts of new actions, fully awake after that traumatic experience. Laughter, pills, diet, pain, shutting out…nothing works. What on earth does she have to do? What is the cure?
It’s in the title! Just because you’re a big girl, it doesn’t mean you won’t feel sad, pain or lonely. It doesn’t mean you can’t cry. So please, for your sake, don’t lose yourself in anything else, especially self-harm. Just cry when you need to.
Sia x 1000 Forms Of Fear
You can make Sia’s biography out of the reviews there ?
You’ll also find that Sia Furler sure likes to sing about suicide via sharp things, violent animals, fire, emancipation and getting strangled. The songs’ lyrics are more brutal than Metal, but the music is softer than bubblegum Pop. But hey, Heidi Klum found “Fire Meets Gasoline” sexy enough for a lingerie commercial music video.
It’s a moody album for sure, and judging by them feels you can squeeze here today, this album is quality venting music.