The artist Sia released her sixth studio album 1000 Forms of Fear on the 4TH July of this year. The song ‘Chandelier’ was the first song released from this album and the video, rather than showing Sia herself, showcases the dancing of young girl. In interviews Sia never shows her face to the camera, and during live performances she stands with her back to the crowd. In today’s culture of fat shaming, skinny shaming, slut shaming, prude shaming and seemingly general person shaming, it’s no wonder that Sia has opted out of the limelight. But what effect does this have on the way we listen to or discuss her music?
The brand that surrounds any artist or band comprises a large part of the way they sell their music and the way in which they get their work out there, but it seems there comes a point when the image of the music carries more weight than the music itself. People seem to discuss on a more regular basis what Miley Cyrus is wearing rather than what her music sounds like and perhaps if image was no longer a component of musical success everyone’s music taste would be much more varied. In just the same way as people shop for certain brands when buying clothes, many musicians now create brands through image that fans can subscribe to as a way of saying something about themselves; they express themselves through the image of the musicians that they listen to. This is of course, not where the issue lies, rather it is in the mass dismissal of good music that has been performed by someone who does not subscribe to society’s construction of beauty, gender or acceptability, someone whose appearance is appraised in a manner that completely overshadows the actual music the artist is creating.
The importance of image to bands is nothing new, it has always been and will always be a huge factor in the way in which bands are valued by the general public and a means of directing attention towards themselves. Image can be just as much a form of expression as music but as a generation our obsession with image seems to spiralling without any signs of slowing. We are bombarded with advertisements that sell products through beauty, apps that filter our surroundings to make them more appealing to strangers that follow us and music is no longer about the sound, but the perception.
Sia’s refusal to show her face is her brand, and yes that does dominate many interviews in the same way that other musicians wardrobe choices or hair styles might do, but the point is that she’s making a distinction between the way she looks and the art that she produces. The fact that this distinction is something that has to be made is, to me, a sad reflection on the instagramming obsessed generation that at first glances places the outward appearance of people over their talents.