15 Great Songs You Didn’t Know Sia Wrote
On January 29th, Sia will release her seventh studio album, This Is Acting. The LP has an unusual premise in that the majority of the songs were originally intended for other artists — some of today's biggest pop stars ranging from Beyoncé to Adele, who opted not to use Sia's compositions on their own albums. Instead of shelving the unwanted tunes, Sia chose to release her own versions. "I feel like they're hits, but nobody wanted them," the songwriter told us of the tracks on the new LP. "So I thought, 'Let's see, as an experiment, if I'm right.'"
This latest batch of rejects aside, Sia has been more than successful as a pop composer, having worked with everyone from Shakira to Katy Perry to help craft huge hits or deep-cut gems. Here we look back at 15 standout moments in Sia's songwriting career.
Will Young, “You Don’t Know” (2008)
One of Sia's earliest forays into the world of pop songwriting was on this sweet ballad sung by Will Young, the first-ever winner of British singing competition Pop Idol. The delicate song appeared on Young's fourth album, Let It Go, and was released the same year as Sia's own fourth LP, Some People Have Real Problems. In 2008, Sia's career as a pop songwriter had barely launched, and her track for Young still retains some of the indie-pop sentimentality of her own solo work.
Christina Aguilera, “Bound to You” (2010)
In 2010, Sia began crossing over as a pop songwriter in a major way, working primarily with Christina Aguilera that year on the former Disney star's Bionic album. Aguilera's foray into electropop arrived the same year that the singer also appeared in Burlesque alongside Cher. In that musical film, Aguilera belts out this moving, epic ballad — one of her finest, most emotionally wrought scenes in an otherwise campy film. Not only did the performance help Aguilera flaunt her singing and acting range, but it also showed off Sia's serious songwriting chops.
Rihanna, “Diamonds” (2012)
Sia's first Number One hit for another artist came in the form of the breezy "Diamonds," from Rihanna's most recent album to date, 2012's Unapologetic. "Diamonds" not only cemented Sia's status as a top-tier pop songwriter but also showcased a new musical direction for the Barbadian pop singer. The success of the song led Rihanna and her manager to reach out to Sia as Rihanna prepared her just-finished eighth album Anti. "Her manager said, 'We want 'Diamonds,'" Sia told Rolling Stone last year about the initial Anti meetings. "'We need soul. We want some music that has feeling.'" While attempting to write an updated "Diamonds," Sia instead ended up with This Is Acting single "Cheap Thrills."
Ne-Yo, “Let Me Love You (Until You Learn to Love Yourself)” (2012)
Sia teamed up with songwriting and production team StarGate on this Ne-Yo hit that appeared on his fifth LP — and first as Senior Vice President of A&R at Motown Records — R.E.D. The single became his first to enter the Top 10 since 2008. The Sia and StarGate collaboration was the team's second successful endeavor, quickly following up the success they had with Rihanna's "Diamonds."
Celine Dion, “Loved Me Back to Life” (2013)
Loved Me Back to Life was Celine Dion's first English-language album in six years, and the lead single of the same name was a booming statement for the French-Canadian vocalist. By the time of the track's late-2013 release, Sia had taken some time off from releasing her own original music, working heavily with other artists and singing on dance tracks like David Guetta's "Titanium" and Flo Rida's "Wild Ones." As she went poppier, she brought the "My Heart Will Go On" belter with her, penning a hard-grooving track that featured Dion in a sleek new context.
Britney Spears, “Perfume” (2013)
Britney Spears promised her most "personal" album yet with 2013's Britney Jean, and no song delivered on the pledge more than "Perfume," one of the most vulnerable power ballads of Spears' career. Above a synth-pop beat, Spears belts out the tale of a suspicious woman who is worried that her current beau still retains feeling for his ex-girlfriend. The song wasn't quite as massive a hit as Spears is used to, but it ended up being a critical smash that showed incredible growth for the singer.
Beyonce, “Pretty Hurts” (2013)
"Pretty Hurts" was the first song surprised fans heard off Beyoncé's eponymous 2013 album, released with no warning. It's also the most empowering piece of music from the LP, a track accompanied by a video that explores pageant life and the world's focus on a woman's outer appearance. Sia revealed to RS that while working on the album in the Hamptons with Beyoncé and her team, the songwriter penned 25 tracks for the album, but only "Pretty Hurts" made it to the final product. "She's very Frankenstein when she comes to songs," Sia detailed of the "writing camp" atmosphere in the Hamptons. "She'll say, 'I like the verse from that. I like the pre-chorus from that. Can you try mixing it with that?'"
Katy Perry, “Double Rainbow” (2013)
One of the most earnest moments on Katy Perry's Prism LP was "Double Rainbow," the simple, ethereal ballad she co-wrote with Sia and Greg Kurstin. Sia had nothing but praise for her time spent working with Perry and of their friendship as well, describing the pop star's songwriting style as "analytical" and reflecting on how their songwriting collaboration almost didn't work out because of how different their styles are. "I really wanted her to sing some of my songs," she told RS. "Mostly because I love her as a person." Perry also almost sang Sia's collaboration with Diplo and the Weeknd, "Elastic Heart."
Lea Michele, “Cannonball” (2014)
After Lea Michele became Glee's first breakout star, her debut solo LP, Louder, was highly anticipated. Her first single, "Cannonball," was the perfect introduction to Michele's new life as a pop diva. The 2014 album was originally intended for an earlier release, but a month after she wrapped the LP, her boyfriend and co-star Cory Monteith died tragically. Michele then met with Sia to finalize two more songs for the album, including "Cannonball," which resonated with her struggle to overcome the loss. "I just felt that 'Cannonball' was the perfect first song for people to hear from this record," she told MTV News. "It just really explains where I am right now and it's been such an inspirational song for me. It's been such a rock, such a source of strength for me."
Kylie Minogue, “Sexercize” (2014)
Sia made her debut as an executive producer on Kylie Minogue's exciting 12th album, Kiss Me Once. She mostly took a backseat on the writing for the LP, though she did contribute to a few songs, including the campy throwback "Sexercize." Of their collaboration, Minogue offered nothing but praise, revealing to Idolator that the pair had been writing together for some time. "We worked together a couple of times — with her as a writer and me looking at some tracks she had already written, and also doing some writing together," Minogue revealed. "Around about what turned out to be the halfway mark of making this album, I asked her if she would executive-produce. She said yes immediately and I was thrilled, because I really admire her. On top of that, we really got on."
Shakira, “Chasing Shadows” (2014)
"Chasing Shadows" was one of several songs that Sia wrote for Shakira, but it was the only one to make the Colombian singer-songwriter's self-titled album. The bonus track showcases the poppier side of the artist whose album focused more on guitar-driven, rock-tinged ballads with a few Latin-pop bangers like "Empire" and "Dare." Sia had told RS that at least one of the songs on her 2016 album This Is Acting had been a Shakira reject. "You'll know that it was a Shakira reject because I sound like Shakira," she said.
Pitbull Featuring Jennifer Lopez and Claudie Leitte, “We Are One (Ole Ola)” (2014)
Sia co-wrote the soundtrack for one of the the world's biggest sporting events when she helped create "We Are One" for the FIFA World Cup. Pitbull, Jennifer Lopez and Brazilian singer Claudie Leitte rapped and sang, respectively, on the uplifting, catchy and fun Latin-house single that became an international hit.
Jessie J, “Flashlight” (2015)
Songs by both Sia and Jessie J had been huge plot points in the original Pitch Perfect, so it was no coincidence that the pair linked up for the sequel's most important track, "Flashlight." Sia co-wrote the song with a pre-fame Sam Smith, though it was not the song she originally intended for the film. "The truth is that we wrote 'Bird Set Free' for Pitch Perfect 2," she told RS. "They rejected it and took 'Flashlight.' That become a big thing through the movie, but I could not believe they rejected 'Bird Set Free' because to me it was such a big, anthemic, fun, sing-along-in-the-car song."
Kelly Clarkson, “Invincible” (2015)
When Sia and Kelly Clarkson teamed for Clarkson's 2015 electropop LP, Piece by Piece, the results were as explosive as expected. Both artists are well known for their anthemic ballads and reflections on female maturity, and on "Invincible," they brought together their songwriting clout to create one of the most powerful statements on Clarkson's Eighties-inspired LP.
Carly Rae Jepsen, “Making the Most of the Night” (2015)
Back in 2013, Sia praised Carly Rae Jepsen on Twitter, dubbing the "Call Me Maybe" singer an "epic songwriter." Fittingly, Sia co-wrote two of the standout tracks on Jepsen's 2015 LP, Emotion — one of last year's finest pop albums — including "Making the Most of the Night," the LP's most driving and exciting song. Fueled by urgent synths, the track sounds like an emotional car chase and perfectly complements Sia and Jepsen's other collaboration from the LP, the bubbly and impeccable "Boy Problems."