WHAT: The video for “The Greatest,” a new non-album single from Sia.
WHO: Sia sings the track (which, in its non-video form, also features a guest appearance from Kendrick Lamar), while the video was co-directed by the artist and Daniel Askill, and which stars regular Sia collaborator Maddie Ziegler, along with 48 other young dancers, all of whom were choreographed by Ryan Heffington.
WHY WE CARE: “The Greatest” is a big pop jam of the kind that, say, Katy Perry or Sarah Bareilles might release. Its refrains of “I’ve got stamina,” “I’m free to be the greatest,” and “Don’t give up, I won’t give up” makes it seem like a track tailor-made for political rallies and inspirational footwear ads. The video, though, is pure Sia–which is to say, it’s idiosyncratic, intense, and fascinating. Not only does it star the singer’s perpetual muse in the form of the 13-year-old Ziegler, but she’s joined here by 48 other young dancers–making 49, which is also the number of victims in the Orlando gay nightclub shooting that occurred back in early June. While the bulk of the video features the kids dancing energetically, wearing neutral tones, and making expressive faces, the final minute–which occurs after the song ends–puts the bodies of the 49 dancers on the floor, in an unmistakeable reminder of what happened in Orlando.
Reacting to the events of a tragedy like the one that occurred in Florida in June through art is a human reaction, but the speed with which media narratives rise and fall in 2016 makes it hard to keep up–when Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jennifer Lopez, or Melissa Etheridge, released tracks within days of the incident, it hit right as the attack was in the zeitgeist, but Sia’s video comes after the news has moved on to Brexit; an attempted coup in Turkey; a sniper attack in Dallas and police brutality incidents in Baton Rouge and Minneapolis; the Olympics; and, of course, an ongoing presidential campaign filled with a shocking number of bizarre statements and scandals. It makes the Orlando shooting feel like it might have happened three years ago, rather than three months–and while the video for “The Greatest” could feel like it’s coming too late as a result, it also serves to draw attention back to the tragedy of a horrible attack being inflicted upon a vulnerable population after the narrative has moved on. That’s a powerful use of an artist’s platform, too.