Sia released the music video for her single “Big Girls Cry” in 2014, and she teamed up with a familiar face for the visual. By this point in time, I’d like to think that we are all familiar with the marketing strategy that the elusive Australian chanteuse has utilized while promoting her album 1000 Forms of Fear. In an effort to protect her privacy and her sanity from the toxic environment of fame, she has opted out of showing her face. If you want to hear Sia’s soaring vocals (and let me tell you, you absolutely want to hear them), you’re simply going to have to accept that you won’t be seeing her.
Instead, she has branded herself via her platinum blond bob. You’ll see it on the album cover, and you’ll see it in all of her live performances. In fact, she has recruited some famous faces to don that bob and bring Sia’s persona to life while she stands in the background bringing the house down with her voice. The most common “Sia” is Dance Mom’s very own Maddie Ziegler, and she is back for Sia’s newest visual.
“Big Girls Cry” is Ziegler’s third music video with Sia, so this isn’t the first time that she has donned the bob. In fact, you could say that she is something of a professional “Sia” of sorts. We have already seen the young dancer fill an abandoned apartment with her plaintive cries for help in “Chandelier,” and she teamed up with Shia LaBeouf in “Elastic Heart.” Both videos required complex choreographies that displayed the fragile state Sia evoked lyrically. “Big Girls Cry” is another emotional cut. It is easily one of the most personal songs on 1000 Forms of Fear, as the Australian musician sings about the process of breaking down and sobbing while erecting a positive façade to hide her wounds. After seeing Sia and Ziegler’s video, it is evident that neither of them are the so-called “pretty criers” that delicately shed a tear or two. The process for them is a little more… involved.
In the visual, Ziegler is back under the bob and in the leotard, but this time she has saved all of her choreographic feats for the outtakes or for future performances on Dance Moms. Instead of leaping and bounding around a set, Maddie Ziegler performs the whole song sitting. Don’t get me wrong, she is pulling off some epic armography (hand dancing for those unaware) that would make Britney Spears proud, but she isn’t doing much else.
The video starts out of focus, with the dancer sitting in front of a black screen. As the view resolves, Ziegler visually recreates the track’s lyrics. You can see the struggle in her eyes as she forces a watery smile to her face before losing herself into the process of breaking down. It is not a pretty process. Ziegler downs a drink (one, two, three drink to quote “Chandelier”), applies makeup, and speaks into her foot like a phone. As the song enters its second chorus, a pair of hands emerges from behind Ziegler, taking control of the younger girl before eventually pulling her out of the frame by the neck.
After being strangled by the invader, Ziegler is dropped back into the frame just in time to lose absolute control on the bridge. Ziegler embraces her insanity before realizing that she has an audience. As the visual comes to a close and Sia’s voice fades out, Ziegler stares at the audience of viewers that have surrounded her and stolen her most vulnerable moments for public consumption. It is a powerful message that perfectly encapsulates the entirety of the 1000 Forms of Fear era.
All in all, “Big Girls Cry” is another emotional visual from Sia and Ziegler, and it is their simplest to date. Without any of the larger-than-life choreographed motions, the focus remains solely on Ziegler’s acting and Sia’s delivery. While it is powerful, I did find myself less overtaken by the story this time. After the two previous visuals, “Big Girls Cry” feels like a bit of a let down from the duo.
The song is one of Sia’s most relatable and vulnerable to date, which leaves me slightly torn. I appreciate the up close and personal invitation to Sia’s breakdown via Ziegler, but it almost feels too personal. Also, while I appreciate simplicity, I would have preferred it in previous installments. If this is truly the final music video for the era, it feels a bit like a let down in the face of previous efforts. Had “Big Girls Cry” come out first, it would have made more sense. We could have built up to one of the more impressive visuals of “Chandelier” or “Elastic Heart.”
As such, I’m at a bit of a loss. I appreciate the effort and the visual, but it leaves me longing for one more take. I enjoy the raw quality, but I’m desperate for more production. I relate to the struggle, but I feel too close now. This may be exactly what Sia was going for though. She has always desired to create conversation with her art. I’d say she has succeeded.