Sia: Music review – so-so soundtrack to her controversial film

(Atlantic)
The star-studded album from her film about autism should be safer ground for Sia, but even here there are pitfalls

Sia.
Bubblegum and bile… Sia.
Bubblegum and bile… Sia.
Kitty Empire

Last modified on Wed 17 Feb 2021 08.56 EST

Pop singer Sia’s directorial film debut, Music, released online tomorrow, has been dogged by controversy for its depiction of autism, and by bewildered reviews, trying to reconcile the film’s fantasy musical interludes with its plot. Recorded music should be safer ground for this singer and writer of umpteen hits, joined here by a phalanx of famous friends: producer Jack Antonoff, co-writers Dua Lipa, Pink and David Guetta. But even on the album there are pitfalls.

One bouncy, boosterish track, Together, comes from the film’s alternative reality, where a girl called Music, whose autism renders her non-verbal, can let her imagination run riot. Sia can make cheesy uplift quite palatable – witness her recent Christmas song Snowman. But the psychedelic wholesomeness feels like overkill, and her imagining of Music’s internal world, problematic.

Were it possible to divorce the songs from the film, their strengths would appear clearer. The sound design is excellent throughout, and Sia remains able to cut bubblegum with bile, as songs such as the flirtatious Hey Boy, and the orchestral Beautiful Things Can Happen, attest. Taken as part of Sia’s own unfolding character arc, songs like Courage to Change have their moments, but it’s hard to dispel the discomfort surrounding the entire project.