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Sia’s Stale Song and Dance Routine

With simple deviations on the same performative formula, it might be time for something to change

Continuing her tireless This Is Acting promo tour, Australian singer-songwriter Sia visited The Ellen Show this afternoon to once again trot out one of her album’s high points, “Bird Set Free.”

Decked out in her trademark oversize black-and-blonde wig — bow and all — the 40-year-old hitmaker stood in the far corner of the stage as her dancer, a shirtless man wearing a similar wig, tossed and contorted his body around the cavernous room as kaleidoscopic blue lights shrouded him in colors.

To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with the performance; Sia’s vocals are pristine, aching, rasping brilliance as usual (there’s a reason she’s been one of the rare Top 40 songwriters to break out with a career of her own). That said, the bewigged “frontman” doing a choreographed modern-dance routine is becoming an increasingly tired way of avoiding the limelight.

Sia’s talked frequently about choosing (modest) anonymity in favor of the spotlight, which is an argument not remotely worth broaching; it’s her career, and she’s more than entitled to do with it what makes her happiest. Beyond that, though, it’s the performative aspects of her television appearances that need fine-tuning.

Ever since her mainstream breakthrough with 1000 Forms of Fear in 2014, the star’s become known for her lavish sets and dancers, meant to convey the stories of her songs as a stand-in for Sia herself.

They’re routines with only slight differences: A man, a woman, a child (often Dance Moms star Maddie Ziegler), or some permuted combination of the group will appear centerstage, usually wearing a leotard and the same wig as Sia herself, who’s steps behind them. Either working in tandem (or occasionally in opposition to the other’s movements), he/she/they will twirl, spasm, shake, and run around the room, performing what is certainly — to the average viewer’s eye — not much more than a deviation on the dance routine of whatever her previous performance was. She’s done it on The Tonight Show (as recently as last week); The Ellen Show (many, many times); Good Morning AmericaSaturday Night Live (twice in the past two years); live in (rare) concertDancing With the Stars; and several other places.

Again, they’re all usually quite spectacular, but at a certain point, you can only run through so many versions of the same event over and over before an audience starts to grow listless (#GroundhogDayPromo). It’s not that we think Sia’s incapable of delivering something innovative and new. She’s already proven that she’s more than willing to break new ground onstage. But the novelty and sheen surrounding the campaigns for 1000 Forms of Fear and This Is Acting are fading fast.

Tags: sia, Sia Furler