Sia may just be the undisputed ruler of the pop world. Her last album This Is Acting literally consists almost exclusively of songs she wrote for other artists including Rihanna and Adele. Now, she has a brand new track - 'The Greatest' - with Kendrick Lamar on it. That's just a recipe for success.
The song begins just as any Sia song does - with a keyboard synth intro. The verses consists of that intro repeating itself on top of a minimal pop beat as Sia sings about running from a hard situation: "Uh-oh, running out of breath... / Uh-oh, running now, I close my eyes... And uh-oh, I see another mountain to climb... Uh-oh, I need another love, be mine." The song feels like the narrator is running from the hardships of life and as they hit one after one, she tells herself that she can keep going with the simple statement, "I got stamina." The pre-chorus has a more blatant - but uplifting all the same - cry, "Don't give up, I won't give up / Don't give up," before the chorus explodes in a burst of pride and hope: "I'm free to be the greatest, I'm alive / I'm free to be the greatest here tonight, the greatest / The greatest, the greatest alive."
While not included in the music video version (presumably the single version), Kendrick Lamar's guest verse serves less as trying to act as a motivator to the self, but more like motivation coming from a fatherly, or even godly figure. He claims that he is "the wisdom of the fallen - I'm the youth," implying that his words resonate with anyone, the old and the young. His verse is a reassuring pat on the back that may be what the narrator needs to carry on. Kendrick ends his verse by saying it's okay to fail, and you will be able to come back and get back up again: "Letdowns will get you, and the critics will test you / But the strong will survive, another scar may bless you."
The music video is in a typical Sia flavor, her iconic teenage dancer Maddie Ziegler performing an interpretive dance throughout a beaten down house. As she jumps from room to room, she is met by groups of teenagers and kids who dance with her, their faces all painted grey as if to say their life has been drained away, while Maddie's face has rainbow paint on it (perhaps a call to the LGBT community) and she is full of life, and brings that life to the others by dancing with them. As the song ends and the video goes to a droning noise, all of the kids fall to the ground in a pile as if their life was drained as the music stopped. Maddie wakes up and looking defeated and the video ends with her crying.
The message of the song seems to be in response to the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida earlier this summer. The hashtag that has been paired with the song and video, #weareyourchildren, now has meaning. Regardless of sexuality or beliefs, today's generation has the freedom to be gay or Muslim or whatever they want to be. We are your children, so why do you hate us? The message is one to be held close not only for strength through life, but for strength in your personality and beliefs.
Sia is a prolific artist, but her messages often serve more as motivation than the almost political statement served in 'The Greatest'. It's by no means bad - it's great to see Sia express her emotions through this song. 'The Greatest' hits a lot of areas and will resonate with a lot of people. Leave it to Sia to make real music in a world of fake messages in pop.
Rating: 83 / 100