Sia Furler has been at the helm of some of the best pop songs of the decade. Even when her name isn’t on the album art, you can still hear her in the music, in the familiar chord progressions and anthemic choruses. Her knack for penning huge hits is why the likes of Rihanna, Beyoncé and Katy Perry keep her close at hand, at one point fuelling speculation she was being held hostage in Beyoncé’s basement and harvested for her hit-writing skills. But if she was, she’s since escaped, teaming up with ZAYN on new single ‘Dusk Till Dawn’.
Although Sia is one of four writers here, ‘Dusk Till Dawn’ still has all the characteristics of a Sia hit, particularly the chorus with its high notes and repetitive refrain. Thankfully, ZAYN (herein referred to merely as Zayn because, you know, life’s short), has the range to tackle one of Sia’s more challenging compositions, soaring over the chorus and keeping it restrained and flirtatious on the verses.
But though Zayn’s and Sia’s collaboration does work in this respect, there’s something about it that leaves you feeling a little cold. Perhaps it’s because there’s approximately zero chemistry between the two, their voices oddly detached from one another throughout. Even when singing in harmony, there’s a certain flatness, something that makes the duet feel somehow off. That isn’t to say it’s not an enjoyable track, but as far as musical pairings go, this is one that just doesn’t equal the sum of its parts.
It’s not hard to see why. Both Zayn and Sia are intensely private individuals, the mystique a critical part of their appeal. In the entirety of ‘Dusk Till Dawn”s cinematic video, Zayn only utters one line: “You don’t know me”. He remains an enigma, something we can project our own ideas onto without him ever having to do or say very much at all. When paired with another private individual however, the result is less alluring and more unsatisfying. Our need for some sort of substance goes unfulfilled.
For her part, Sia’s identity has been spread out across a whole palette of artists, her style stamped on their biggest hits. But the cost of this has been a diluting of the Sia brand. Her songs are no longer unique, the same sound slapped all over the top 40, leading to an over-saturation of her style. As a result, ‘Dusk Till Dawn’ sounds like more of the same. While Zayn should be a trendsetter, here he’s very much following the crowd.
‘Dusk Till Dawn’ boasts a strong chorus but its verses are plodding and dull. Zayn doesn’t sound sexy as much as he does bored, mumbling over a stagnant arrangement. And for all her worth as a songwriter, there isn’t much need for Sia here, Zayn able to hit the notes alone. While’Dusk Till Dawn’ isn’t half bad, it would have worked better as a solo song as, in its current form, it simply lacks all of the ingredients that make for a decent duet.