TV is My Parent
Sia's latest release is a concert DVD called TV is My Parent, which includes a set from her concert at the Hiro Ballroom in New York, four music videos, and traditional "behind the scenes with the band" footage. While I'm a big fan of Sia's quirky avant-garde pop, a concert DVD isn't usually something I would pick up. If I already have the music on CD, why do I need lower quality versions punctuated with inaudible on-stage banter? However, I have to admit that once I started watching the DVD, I was really really enjoying myself.
What makes a project like this work is Sia's relationship with the audience. This isn't a spectacle like Gwen Stafani and her Harajuku Girls, or Britney Spears lip-syncing her way through a series of electronically-produced songs. Sia's playfulness and energy are infectious, and her vocals have an intensity that demands immersion.
The show opens with Sia and her bandmates dressed as day-glow children's drawing. Most of the concert set is from her latest album, Some People Have Real Problems. The songs chosen for the DVD showcase Sia's songwriting at its best, from the haunting "Breathe Me" (a song some of you might remember from HBO's Six Feet Under series finale) to the honest and flippant "The Girl You Lost to Cocaine" that features satisfying lines like: "'cause I'll never get laid while I'm running your life." Her radio-friendly "Little Black Sandals" opens the concert and also features an adorable young girl singing backup.
The concert is definitely the highlight of TV is My Parent. The "behind the scenes" filming is fun—particularly when she's scheduled to do a signing at Starbucks, but can't find the right one because there are four on the same street. The problem is it doesn't tell the audience much about her creative process or thoughts about her music.
Following the band around makes the viewer feel distinctly like being the only sober person at a party, seeing a drummer rub his nipples is only really amusing once.
The music videos are great, and (as any Sia fan would expect) they are weird. The line between creativity and hipster obscurity is finely tread here but she comes off more Bjork than Feist. "Soon We'll be Found" is the real gem, with Sia's signature child-like art being used as a metaphor for the innocence of new love.
While I've never considered Sia in the vein of feminist music, there is something distinctly refreshing about her approach to sexuality in her lyrics and her own aesthetic. While aloof and friendly on stage and when interacting with fans, Sia is clearly an artist first. Her songs are largely about connecting to other people and could be applied to the complexities of any relationship.
My feeling is that TV is My Parent is for Sia fans. If you're new to her music, a better introduction would be to buy her solo albums and prepare for the unexpected urge to do interpretive dance.