This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #256: Breathe Me by Sia.
As we have journeyed through the first half of this terrific song list, we have discussed many ways in which the greatness of a song can be measured. For many of the songs on this list, their legacy is told, in part, by record sales and chart positions. But, for some songs; especially songs like, “Breathe Me” by Sia, the true measure can be found in the emotional impact the song has on an audience. “Breathe Me” by Sia is one of those rare and special songs that come along and changes the lives of those who hear it. There are many versions online of this song being performed by Sia and, in each case, if you read the comments, you will note an, almost, cult-like devotion from those whose lives have been touched by Sia’s words. “Breathe Me” connects with those who felt alone and lost. It makes them feel seen. In more than a few cases, it has saved lives, too.
Sia has had an interesting life and career. She was born in 1975 in Australia under the name, Sia Kate Isobelle Furler. She always was a singer. In her teenage years, she sang in Jazz ensembles and was noted for her smokey, sultry vocalizations. In the early 2000s, she travelled to England and joined a cool, chilled-out, Trip Hop group called “Zero 7”. While that group was never “her” group per se, she became the de-facto lead singer and, as a group, the band enjoyed some moderate success on the UK charts. After a few albums with “Zero 7”, Sia released some albums of her own and had some minor hits with “Breathe Me”, “Little Black Sandals” and “Soon We’ll Be Found”.
While this was not her most commercially-successful period as a musician, many fans claim that it is their favourite period of her career. During this time, she was writing songs based on her personal experiences as a woman and as a human being. “Breathe Me” is a song about Depression and mental well-being (something that Sia has struggled with, on and off, throughout her entire lifetime). “Little Black Sandals” is about women who find themselves trapped in a destructive relationship/marriage and the courage it takes to eventually leave. “Soon We Will Be Found” is a song that Sia usually performs while signing the lyrics herself, as she sings them. In all cases, fans felt their life stories being sung aloud in her lyrics and the connection she made with them instantly became deep and very personal.
But, on the other side of the microphone, the more Sia gained fans and fame, the more she grew uncomfortable with it all. Eventually, she opted to retire from active performing and, instead, she decided to focus on songwriting. This is when everything changed for her.
Sia wrote a song called “Titanium” that was released by David Guetta and that went on to be a huge dance hit. She, also, wrote songs for Rhianna, Beyonce and Christina Aguilera. With DJ Diplo and singer, The Weeknd, she had a huge hit called “Elastic Heart” that appeared on the soundtrack to the wildly popular movie trilogy, “The Hunger Games”.
The more success she had behind the scenes, the more audiences clamoured for her to return to the stage again. But, instead of happily complying, Sia found the spotlight’s glare to be too bright. So, she reached a compromise that has served as one of her trademarks and that was, Sia agreed to tour again but, only if her face could be covered and only if she could stand in the background while others (mainly modern dancers) performed in front. Consequently, she is known my many who discvovered her in this second phase of her career as the singer who wears two-toned wigs that cover her face or masks. These new fans were, initially, unaware of what Sia actually looked like which provided Sia with a modicum of the privacy she deemed necessary in order to do what she does so well.
In addition to her unusual performing style, Sia has become a champion of modern dance; showcasing dancers who interpret her music as she sings. In particular, Sia has formed a bond with a young girl named Maddy Zeigler. Zeigler has appeared in some highly controversial music videos for Sia songs such as “Chandelier” (with actor Shia LeBeouf), “Elastic Heart”, as well as, the autism-inspired movie, “Music”, which drew criticism for casting non-autistic performers (like Zeigler) in autistic roles.
But, regardless of the ups and downs of her personal life and her music career, Sia has always been noted for her chops when it comes to being a writer and singer of songs. The lady has pipes! Sia’s voice is among the best in the business when it comes to the power she possesses and the emotion she is able to convey. In the video you will see for “Breathe Me”, you will note her still strong Aussie accent. I will share two videos; one will be a live performance by Sia of this song which, as I have mentioned, is from the first half of her career. She will appear unmasked, at the front of the stage. Her comfort and easy rapport with the audience is obvious. When she starts the chorus for the first time by asking, “Be my friend?”, you will see the audience react with genuine affection. “Breathe Me” is a song about lonely moments and the power of being seen. As mentioned, this song has rescued people at the brink of despair and has saved lives, for sure. The second video is from the terrific television series, “Six Feet Under”, which used “Breathe Me” to soundtrack the closing scene in the entire series.
I am a big Sia fan. Even though her performing style can appear off-putting to some, I value her willingness to shine a light on the darker segments of our lives and, as Paul Simon once sang, to go “where the ragged people go”. She is a champion of the underdog because she has always believed herself to be one. She is an introvert in an extroverted world; navigating her way with a powerful voice and a soulful manner. She is a flawed human but, in a word, Sia is as real as they come. That sense of humanity is what resonates most and what makes her such an important person to so many. So, without further delay, here is Sia with one of the most emotional songs of all-time, “Breathe Me”. Enjoy.
The link to the video for the song, “Breathe Me” by Sia, can be found here.
The link to the video for the song, “Breathe Me” by Sia, as used in the TV show, “Six Feet Under”, can be found here.
The link to the video for the song, “Elastic Heart”, featuring Sia and dancer, Maddy Zeigler, can be found here. ***Note how Sia has her face hidden and stays toward the back of the stage.
The link to the video for the song, “Destiny” featuring Sia and Sophie Barker from the group, Zero 7, can be found here.
The link to the official website for Sia, can be found here.
The link to the official website for KEXP, can be found here.