1000 Forms of Fear received generally favorable reviews from music critics, who praised Sia's vocals as well as the album's lyrical content. The album debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 52,000 copies. The release also charted atop the charts of Australia and Canada, and reached the top five charts of Denmark, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. As of 26 October 2015, it has been certified gold by the RIAA denoting 500,000 equivalent-album units sold in the United States. As of January 2016, the album has sold 1 million copies worldwide.
The album spawned four singles. Its lead single, "Chandelier", released in March 2014, became a worldwide top-10 single; it also peaked at number eight on the US Billboard Hot 100, becoming the first song by Sia to enter the chart as a lead artist. "Big Girls Cry" was released in June 2014. Sia's solo version of "Elastic Heart", which was originally a collaboration with The Weeknd and Diplo, was released in January 2015, and reached the top 20 of the Hot 100. "Fire Meet Gasoline" was released as the fourth and final single in Germany on 19 June 2015. The official music video for "Chandelier" has been viewed on YouTube more than 2 billion times, and the video for "Elastic Heart" has been viewed more than 1 billion times.
In 2010, Sia released her fifth studio album, We Are Born, which peaked at number two on the ARIA Albums Chart and was certified gold by the Australian Recording Industry Association. Following the release of We Are Born, Sia decided to retire from the career as a recording artist and established a career as a songwriter. She wrote the song "Titanium" for American singer Alicia Keys, but it was later sent to David Guetta, who included Sia's original demo vocals on the song and released it as a single in 2011. "Titanium" was a commercial success worldwide, peaking within the top five of record charts in the United States, Australia and numerous European regions. However, Sia was not pleased with the success of the single: "[...] I never even knew it was gonna happen, and I was really upset. Because I had just retired, I was trying to be a pop songwriter, not an artist." From 2011 to 2013, Sia became well known for writing songs for Christina Aguilera, Beyoncé, Flo Rida, and Rihanna.
By September 2013, Sia was recording vocal tracks at her home studio with the hope of releasing a new album the following spring. Later that year, a team of RCA Records representatives including the label's CEO Peter Edge met with Sia to discuss a record deal. The singer agreed to a contract for a new album in which she was not obliged to tour or do press appearances to promote the album. In an interview published by NME in February 2015, Sia revealed that 1000 Forms of Fear was released as a contractual obligation: "Basically, I put this out to get out of my publishing deal. I was planning to be a pop song writer for other artists. But my publishing deal was as an artist so I had to put one more album out. I didn't want to get famous so I kept all the songs I wanted and had a lot of fun making it."
"Fair Game", where Sia sings "Watch me squirm baby, but you're just what I need," is a minimalist and string-laden song about the desire to find an equal partner. The solo version of "Elastic Heart", which originally featured The Weeknd and Diplo, is a trap song. The song addresses "the overwhelming strength [Sia] needed to convince herself that life was worth living after coming out of a crushing relationship." "Free the Animal" lyrically "imagines being killed in lurid, masochistic detail" with the lyrics "Detonate me / Shoot me like a cannon ball / Granulate me / Kill me like an animal." The tenth song, "Fire Meet Gasoline", was compared to Beyoncé's "Halo" by Harriet Gibsone from The Guardian. "Cellophane" is an electropop track, where Sia likens herself to "a basket filled with pain."1000 Forms of Fear concludes with "Dressed in Black", which Heather Phares of AllMusic described as a ballad "with more depth than the ones she writes for hire."
"Chandelier", a reggae-influenced electropop song, served as the album's lead single
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"Big Girls Cry" was made available for music download on 25 June. On 2 April 2015, a music video was released, starring Ziegler in the same blonde wig in front of a black background, contorting her face and using her hands to express a slew of emotions.
"Elastic Heart" was released as the third single from 1000 Forms of Fear in January 2015. A music video for the song was released on 7 January 2015 and features Ziegler in the same blonde wig dancing in a giant birdcage opposite actor Shia LaBeouf. It has been viewed on YouTube more than 1 billion times. "Elastic Heart" peaked at number 17 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and charted within the top five charts of several countries, including Australia and Ireland.
I already have a much larger concept for this album and for how I'm going to present it and that was: I don't want to be famous. If Amy Winehouse was a beehive then I guess I'm a blonde bob. I thought 'well if that's my brand, how can I avoid having to use my face to sell something', so my intention was to create a blonde bob brand. Throughout this whole thing I'll put a different person in a blonde bob and either they lip-synch while I'm doing a live performance or they perform a dance or do some sort of performance while I have my back to the audience, as with Ellen.
In an interview with Dazed & Confused, Sia explained that she had decided not to show her face in videos and press shots in the campaign for 1000 Forms of Fear; instead, she focused on creating visual art through her videos. During the promotion of the album, Sia recruited Ziegler to be her persona on stage and performed with her back facing to the camera. On 19 May 2014, Sia performed "Chandelier" on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, where Maddie Ziegler recreated the choreography in the music video. Sia also performed the song on Late Night with Seth Meyers on 9 June 2014, with Girls star Lena Dunham performing the choreography. On 4 July 2014, Sia made an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, where she performed "Chandelier", "Big Girls Cry" and "Elastic Heart".
On 30 July 2014, Sia performed "Chandelier", "Elastic Heart" and "Big Girls Cry" on the VH1's show "SoundClash". On 17 January 2015, Sia performed "Chandelier" and "Elastic Heart" on Saturday Night Live. On 8 February 2015, Sia and Ziegler together with actress Kristen Wiig performed "Chandelier" in a room reminiscent of the video set on the 2015 Grammy Awards telecast.
1000 Forms of Fear received generally positive reviews from critics. The Boston Globe critic Sarah Rodman described the release as "dynamite," while Heather Phares from AllMusic called the album "the sound of [Sia] owning her success." Writing for The Daily Telegraph, Helen Brown praised the album's production and "inspirational" lyrics showcasing Sia struggling to deal with drug addiction and bipolar disorder.Rolling Stone's Julianne Escobedo Shepherd simply wrote that "she sounds like a superstar;" while Maura Johnston of Spin characterised 1000 Forms of Fear as "a chunk of the human emotional spectrum committed to record." On behalf of The New York Times, Jon Pareles lauded the "loopy, unresolved passions" on the album in favour of "the triumphal, laminated, computer-perfected tone of Sia’s clients."
Writing for Slant Magazine, Annie Galvin opined that 1000 Forms of Fear "should be the vessel that rockets the singer out of relative obscurity and into the stratosphere populated by those more recognizable stars who've come to dominate the pop-music universe thanks, in part, to her songwriting skills." Mikael Wood writing for the Los Angeles Times praised Sia's vocals and the production held by Greg Kurstin. Likewise, Entertainment Weekly's Adam Markovitz positively viewed Sia's voice as "astonishing," giving the album a B score.Robert Christgau gave the album a one-star honorable mention (), citing "Chandelier" and "Elastic Heart" as highlights.
On a less enthusiastic review, The Guardian's Harriet Gibsone shared that the album was so impeccable and "contemporary-sounding" that "its impact may fade with time."The A.V. Club writer Annie Zaleski wrote: "1000 Forms of Fear certainly has the songs and contemporary sheen to make Sia a star in her own right, but it's at the expense of both her emotional intimacy and her offbeat personality."
1000 Forms of Fear debuted atop the US Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 52,000 copies. By doing so, it became the lowest sales figure for a number-one album on the chart in nearly two years.The Guardian's Clem Bastow commented on the album's success in the United States: "Australian artists typically fare better in the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, but even then, Sia finds herself in rarefied company." On behalf of The Sydney Morning Herald, George Palathingal opined that the album's debuting atop the Billboard 200 is the result of "a stroke of (anti-)marketing genius" and "a case of quality pop music standing proud."1000 Forms of Fear had sold 374,000 copies in the United States as of December 2015.