Song: "Sweet Potato"
Album: Colour The Small One
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN (will open in new tab)
If there is one thing you can count on when it comes to music, it is the fact that in time, the truly talented, authentic performers will rise to the top. Especially in the current era of artificial sound where image often trumps skill, it has rarely been more important to focus on the performers who bring a soul and style to their music. Taking this into account, one would be hard pressed to find a more straightforward and unquestionably talented performer of the past decade than one finds in the voice of Australia's own Sia Furler. Perhaps best known for her breathtaking work providing vocals on the first two Zero7 albums, there are few performers that can completely enrapture a listener as quickly as she, and it is this ability, combined with her seemingly limitless vocal range that make her such an extraordinary talent. Shortly after her work on Zero7's second record, Furler dropped her last name and released her 2004 album, Colour The Small One under the name Sia. The album brings together the moody electronic overtones that made her work with Zero7 so fantastic, and yet she fuses it together with an acoustic touch that gives the entire album its own unique identity. The record is packed with vast musical landscapes, pushing the boundaries on many genre classifications, yet one can experience everything that makes Sia so phenomenal in her 2004 song, "Sweet Potato."
The instrumentation on "Sweet Potato" is as close to the word "beautiful" as one will find anywhere in the history of recorded music. While it is light and warm, there is an urgency within the music as well as a feeling of longing. The fact that Sia and her producers were able to sculpt such a complex musical work without the arrangement itself sounding too overdone serves as a testament to their talents. Whether it is the cascading programmed drums or the light touches from the acoustic guitar, "Sweet Potato" brilliantly straddles the line between down-tempo electonica and folk-like sounds, and few songs in history have been able to pull off this combination with such fantastic results. As the keyboards fill certain parts, as well as a few sound effects, "Sweet Potato" becomes one of the most complete musical works ever recorded, as it seems that different sounds are constantly coming from every direction. Yet even with this truth, "Sweet Potato" never becomes overwhelming and it instead manages to completely envelop the listener in the picture being painted by both the music and vocals. Within this fact, one can hear the influences of Sia's work within the down-tempo electronic world, as this is in many ways the "point" of that style, and the overall impact of the music on "Sweet Potato" proves just how well Sia and her producers understand music and how to craft such delicate arrangements.
However, while the music on "Sweet Potato" is fantastic, there is not a moment on the song where the focus shifts from the stunning vocal performance of Sia herself. Clearly having no need for any sort of "studio trickery," Sia shows here that there is no limit to her vocal range, as she works the lower register on the verses, as well as higher notes during the bridge and chorus sections. There is an honesty within her voice that becomes completely mesmerizing, and the way in which she is able to softly convey the mood of the song is what makes her such an extraordinary talent. It is this idea that in many ways sums up the key to Sia's success, as there are few performers of her generation that understand tone and mood within the vocal arena as perfectly as she has displayed throughout her career. With "Sweet Potato," Sia takes a rather uncommon approach to the theme of love, and yet the end product is one of the most beautiful and unquestionably accurate songs on the subject to ever be recorded. Looking past the more cliché idea of overly-romanticized love that has been written about thousands of times, on "Sweet Potato," Sia focuses on the smaller aspects of a relationship that make it "real," and it is in this authenticity that the song rises above others. As Sia sings of the details only known between people truly in love, the strange beauty of the song becomes clear, and few performers have been able to convey as deep a level of "real" love and emotion as sea does on "Sweet Potato."
While the current age of music moves tragically closer to completely artificial music, one must be thankful that there are performers like Sia Furler that are keeping the flame of true talent brightly ablaze. Possessing what is without question one of the most powerful and stunning voices of her generation, Sia has proved over the years that she knows no vocal limitations, as well as being able to entrance listeners in a way unlike any other performer in history. Though this was certainly seen in her early work with Zero7, it is on her 2004 album, Colour The Small One, that listeners are able to get the complete picture of her talents, and it is clear that the warm and mesmerizing sounds from those early recordings were as much her doing as those with whom she was working. Never needing to force the mood, "Sweet Potato" conveys the picture of "real" love without any of the trappings or cliché ideas that usually surround such a song, and this is yet another way in which she is one of the most unique performers in the current music scene. The way in which she blends together the sounds of down-tempo electronica and a jazzy folk sound is unlike anything else ever recorded, and when combined with Sia's stunning voice and the candid, sincere lyrics, there is simply no other song in history that compares musically or emotionally to her 2004 song, "Sweet Potato."