In December of 2020, Rolling Stone Australia released a special edition issue which looks at the 50 Greatest Australian Artists of All Time, paying tribute to the best and most impactful artists in Australian music history. While it would have been easy for the editors and writers of the publication to profess their love of the listed artists, the decision was instead made for those who found themselves inspired by these world-renowned names to share their own testimonials of why these artists deserve to make the list.
In celebration of the issue’s release in December, we’re counting down the full 50 artists and their accompanying testimonials in this ongoing online feature. If you want to get your hands on an physical copy of the magazine, be sure to subscribe now to experience the double-length edition featuring some of Australia’s best and brightest discussing the finest names in local music.
50 Greatest Australian Artists of All Time – #2: Sia (by Jack River)
Australia used to be known as a country of outlaws. It was wild and free and beholden to nobody, unlike the sometimes apathetic, filtered-feeling cultural landscape we seem to inhabit today.
But not Sia. The embodiment of a musical outlaw, Sia blazed her own path through an unforgiving and ever-changing industry landscape that tested her ability to stick to her intuition time and time again. After five years of moving goal posts and battling label executives bemoaning that the record was “too pop”, Sia released her album We Are Born, finally edging her into the limelight. As a 17-year-old, I remember being struck by the individuality of Sia, her voice, her visuals, and the pure imagination of the music. It was a breath of fresh, wild air in a sea of synthetic sugary pop.
“Sia blazed her own path through an unforgiving and ever-changing industry landscape.”
Exhausted by the pressure and erratic nature of being a touring, public artist, she boldly drew a line in the sand, and stepped away. Moving to the US to focus on writing, she gave us monolithic moments in music, from “Titanium” to “Diamonds”, it was hard to listen to the radio without hearing music she’d sprinkled her magic on.
When it came to releasing her gargantuan 1000 Forms of Fear she shunned traditional performance norms in favour of her own comfort and sanity. Never showing her face, instead performing behind the now iconic platinum blonde wig – often oversized and wild – she made a statement. She refused to adhere to expectations at the detriment of herself, or her art.
There really aren’t many artists who have laid down boundaries like this and said a complete “no” to the spotlight. These moves by Sia give me confidence to make my career my own and inspire me to create more and more boundaries on how much time and energy is given away to a machine that sometimes doesn’t give back.
Her talent has never faltered, as she continues to write for Beyoncé, Christina Aguilera, and Diplo, she is also determined to live a life that is her own. With her dogs and friends, alive with the creative spirit that once felt suffocated by others. Sia is one of the greatest artists of all time not only because of the relentlessly brilliant attention paid to her melodies and lyricism, but because she doesn’t give a fuck about what the world thinks of her, and in that attitude she blazes the trail for more artists to make their career their own.