Two weeks ago, Sia released the music video for “Elastic Heart”. What followed was both a flurry of critical acclaim for the performance and an onslaught of internet hate for its supposed sexual and paedophilic connotations.
Starring Maddie Ziegler from “Chandelier” and Dance Moms, and Shia LaBeouf (aka my teenage crush – Holes represent!), the music video depicts the two inside a cage—fighting, resting, taunting and reconciling—with an evocative 87 seconds of silence at the end. It’s a powerful performance and there’s no doubt that Maddie and Shia are both incredibly talented in their fields.
I personally didn’t get a paedophilic impression from the video. I didn’t perceive Maddie and Shia’s interactions to be sexual and I think the dirty flesh-coloured leotard and shorts were more of an art direction choice, rather than something sinister and suggestive.
Regardless, the music video caused controversy, and Sia took to Twitter to apologise for anything the clip may have “triggered”.
It’s clear that this was damage control in action, and I think Sia (or her PR team) made a smart decision by posting these statuses. But I’m also kind of annoyed. “Elastic Heart” is a stunning piece of performance art, and Sia shouldn’t have to apologise for it, let alone be responsible for the reactions that followed.
YouTube comments like “this is promoting pedophiles” and “this video is just not right” seem unfounded. If you watched the music video and felt inexplicably uncomfortable, Sia linked a pretty interesting article about how the media landscape has contributed to these predatory and perverted sentiments. It’s worth a read.
I don’t claim to understand what the music video is about, but I think that’s what makes it so provocative. Are they animals? Father and daughter? Brother and sister? Friend or foe? It’s worth noting that “Elastic Heart” is actually a solo re-release. The original track is from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire soundtrack in 2013, and features Sia and The Weeknd’s vocals, with Diplo as co-producer. The lyrics certainly fit The Hunger Games context, but any “warring” relationship could be relevant here.
To shed light on the topic, DanceOn just released a behind-the-scenes YouTube video that explains the meaning of the song and music video.
“We thought it would be interesting if he’s [Shia] working with Maddie as if she is one of his self-states, maybe an inner child or maybe one of his demons,” Sia said.
Choreographer Ryan Heffington also stated that he sees Shia and Maddie as essentially the same person, with the cage representative of the skull, and the relationship between Shia and Maddie indicative of the relationship we have with ourselves.
Though “Elastic Heart” is not about paedophilia, it raises some interesting questions about how we deal with taboo. Can we not comment on sensitive issues like paedophilia through art? What about Lana del Rey’s glamourisation of Vlamidir Nabokov’s Lolita through her music? Why hasn’t anybody talked about that?
I encourage fair criticism, but that’s not what Sia was given. Hopefully by the time her third music video is released (yep, “Chandelier” and “Elastic Heart” are two parts of a trilogy), Sia can create something ridiculously fantastic without having to apologise for it over Twitter.
Hometown: Adelaide, South Australia.
Latest album: 1000 Forms Of Fear, released 29 May, 2014.
Sounds like: Paloma Faith, Florence + The Machine, MØ
Say what? 22-year-old Sia had a brief stint on Home and Away in 1997 as a wedding singer. Whaa?
Ciao ciao, Arianna