What a strange, almost unresonant word chandelier is. My friend Kate sends me the words I respond to on this blog by text. Today, when she sent chandelier (in all caps, which is unusual) I was convinced she’d spelt it wrong, and spent a long time looking at it to be sure. It was no good. I couldn’t be sure either way, so Googled it (she hadn’t spelt it wrong). The first result was the official video for the Sia song Chandelier (1,723,552,767 views!). I watched it, unsure if I knew the song or not (contemporary pop is not my strong suit) but the ‘one, two, three, one, two, three, drink’ refrain seemed familiar. I think I’m right in saying the video features a girl who looks a bit like Sia but isn’t. She’s clearly a dancer or gymnast – a trained physical performer of some kind anyway – and moves around a grim, almost dystopian set of interiors that seem, at first, to be at odds with the celebratory nature of the song. Her choreographic vocabulary is expansive, sometimes freewheeling and triumphant, sometimes edgy, unnervingly contorting – reminiscent almost of the creepily sped-up ‘spider-walk’ scenes in horror films. I wondered if I liked the song or not (I’m 33 now, around the age at which, I’ve heard it said, people tend to stop taking an interest in new music). It’s overproduced, certainly, and the auto-tune is cloying. But there’s something marvellously effervescent about the chorus, about the way Sia’s voice – suddenly shorn of auto-tune – soars on those final, elongated syllables:
I’m gonna swing from the chandeli-heer, from the chandeli-heer
I’m gonna live like tomorrow doesn’t exist
Like it doesn’t exiiist
It makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. It’s also about as good a musical evocation I’ve heard of the vertiginousness of being drunk, that inexorable upwards trajectory towards euphoria you get on after three or six drinks. The image of the chandelier feels right: a glittering, almost phantasmagorical object that, once you’ve got a hold of it, you can only let go by means of a long fall. Sia, and her songwriting partner Jesse Shatkin, know this because it’s there in the lyrics too:
And I’m holding on for dear life, won’t look down won’t open my eyes
Keep my glass full until morning light, ‘cause I’m just holding on for tonight
The song is essentially hedonistic, but it acknowledges hedonism’s cost – the inevitable comedown, the crash and burn. There is a ‘mess’ the morning after, and then the ‘shame’ comes. It all gets ‘pushed down’.