The next British invasion is upon us: brunette soul. One could trace it from the likes of Joss Stone on to Corinne Bailey-Rae, Amy Winehouse, Kate Nash and Lily Allen. Now, new soldier Sia (neé Furler) comes armed with her third studio LP Some People Have Real Problems.
On Some People Sia severs the sonic ties to trip-hop developed early in her career and defined by assisting groups like Zero 7. Normally this would be music biz derring-do, but Sia’s now trying to hit all of her newly contemporary female-vocalist touchstones at once. It smacks of bandwagon-jumping rather than growing artistry—not to mention that she doesn’t really hit said touchstones all that well.
“Lentil” and especially “You Have Been Loved” could be brunette soul standards were they not so indecipherable, Sia’s vocal drawl delivered so carelessly that it devolves into a female Bob Dylan. Other work like “Soon We’ll Be Found” and “Lullaby” contains meandering, forgettable instrumentation.
Things improve a bit on first single “Day Too Soon,” “Death by Chocolate,” “Academia” and the Pretenders cover “I Go to Sleep,” but Sia seems to be cribbing from Alicia Keys and Regina Spektor throughout. This copycatting approaches the original only on “Playground,” its synth bubbles passing for good Tori Amos or tolerable Feist.
Some People Have Real Problems shines brightest when Sia loosens the reins on her vocals. “Electric Bird,” “Little Black Sandals” and hidden track “Buttons” are all driven by solid lyric hooks. These songs are really Sia’s own, and it’s sad that such gems are buried underneath so many half-developed orchestral pop derivatives.