Music Musings: Sia Pushes Boundaries With ‘Elastic Heart’ Video

In the modern-day pop music industry, it’s really tough to find someone that is a true risk-taker.  Record companies survive on the slimmest of profit and debt margins, and as a result they seek desperately to contain creativity.  Artists, on the other hand, are always searching for a way to both break the mold and be rewarded for their efforts.  Few are able to push the boundaries while achieving measurable success.

But few have the gifts, talent and dedication of Australian singer-songwriter Sia Furler.  For one thing, her trajectory into music super-stardom has been much longer than most artists, as she seems to be reaching the peak her success now in her late 30s.  Her very long list of collaborators… from Rhianna to Beyonce to David Guetta… is a testament to how much influence she has throughout the industry.  But as a solo artist, it took the work of her and Guetta to launch Sia straight into the stratosphere with the 2012 smash hit Titanium, regularly cited as one of the best pop songs of the decade.

After Titanium, Sia released what some think is her greatest album yet, 1000 Forms of Fear. Just as the new year starts, Sia releases the epic song Elastic Heart for the album’s second single, with a controversial video that nearly broke the internet hours after it was posted.  Hunger Games fans may already know the song from the Catching Fire soundtrack.

The new video stars Maddie Ziegler (who previously starred in the video for Chandelier) and veteran movie and television actor Shia Labeouf.  The whole video is shot with Lebeouf chasing Ziegler in a large metal cage.  Though one can easily misinterpret singular images as disturbing or predatory, one thorough view of the entire video reveals that it’s less about the characters, but more about a depiction of inner struggle.  Perhaps it represents someone who cannot defeat a problem like drug addiction, illness or a difficult relationship.

In one scene, Ziegler quickly and easily escapes from the cage, while Labeouf is trapped behind the bars reaching for her.  Amazingly, he pulls his whole upper body out of the cage, yet still cannot figure how to actually get out of it.  It’s a metaphor many of us have dealt with time and again, where the solution to a seemingly complicated problem is well within our grasp… we just cannot see it.

Elastic Heart also challenges many societal stereotypes.  We see a true redefinition of bravery, courage and strength, as the young girl proves to have much more of each quality than the seemingly stronger adult man.  Is this video meant to be a feminist statement?  Not sure, but it’s certainly possible to read that way as well.

Lacking huge special effects, shocking costumes or expansive effects, the video is quite simplistic on first observation.  But the message, and how it connects with the contents of Elastic Heart, are profound.

Whatever your reaction, Elastic Heart is sure to get people talking, and once again cast the spotlight on this trailblazing artist.  Both the song and video are some of Sia’s best work yet.  Watch for yourself here…

Marriage Equality Ad Campaign Hits Texas Airwaves

While the rest of the United States has moved forward, the state of Texas, among other stubborn holdouts, has done everything possible to hold on to the past.

The map from the New Hampshire Freedom to Marry, gives a profound visual…

US Marriage Equality January 2015

A full 70 percent of the country’s citizens now live in states with full marriage equality.  But seeing how quickly national attitudes have shifted, the national group Freedom to Marry has decided to shine more light on this issue in the Lone Star State.  Here’s more from the Houston Chronicle

The national same-sex marriage advocacy group Freedom to Marry will air a series of television ads in Texas this week, with the aim to personalize the issue ahead of an important federal hearing Friday.

The $100,000 TV buy will air Sunday and Monday, just days before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans is slated to hear arguments in a case challenging Texas’ constitutional ban on gay marriage.

The ads, which feature gay and lesbian Texans talking about their desire to marry, will air in eight of Texas’ 20 markets including Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Austin, Beaumont, Corpus Christi, El Paso, Laredo, the Rio Grande Valley, Waco and Wichita Falls.

In the ad slated to run in the Dallas area, Fort Worth Police Officers express their desire that their gay colleague, Chris Gorrie, soon has the ability to marry his partner.

“Texans believe in freedom and liberty, and part of that is being able to marry who you love,” Fort Worth Police Department Neighborhood Police Officer Jay Doshi says of his colleague. “So Chris should be able to marry whoever he loves.”

“The aim is to show gay Americans are really completely integrated into the fabric of our society,” said Mark McKinnon, a former advisor to President George W. Bush and Texas chair of Southerners for the Freedom to Marry. He called the ads an “electronic blanket” to reinforce a recent wave court cases validating LGBT Americans right to marry in other states.

Here’s the video of one ad featuring gay and lesbian members of the Ft. Worth police force…

In advance of this Friday’s court hearings, the pro-equality ads seem an important step to help further shift the tide of public opinion in Texas.  They may not reach everyone across the state, but if anything they will serve to promote the already growing coalition of Texans who believe in fairness and common sense for all.  They see that not only is marriage equality right for everyone, but it’s also smart business for a growing and competitive state economy.  Let’s all hope that these ads not only achieve their purpose, but also help to advance the cause of other challenges like LGBT protections in the workplace, housing and public services.  Once marriage rights are settled, the fight for true equality will be far from over.

Off the Kuff has more.

Could The Houston Construction Boom Go Bust?

Whether young or old, rich or poor, anyone in the city of Houston within the last year or so has at least one shared experience… We’ve all had to endure massive amounts of residential and commercial construction. At the start of 2015,new construction projects are likely to hit their peak, with many hoping to reach completion before the city hosts the 2017 Super Bowl.

But are all of these fast and furious projects truly warranted?  Paul Takahashi of the Houston Business Journal isn’t so sure…

Texas housing markets have remained relatively stable despite a volatile national market. While average home prices nationally grew 38 percent between 2000 to 2006 — before the housing market crash of 2007 — Texas averaged a “comfortable” 18 percent growth. The Lone Star State “remained largely on the sidelines” during the most recent housing bubble, the Fitch report said.

Since the Great Recession however, the Texas economy has been booming, buoyed by the state’s strong energy sector. The job growth has attracted thousands of new residents to Texas, fueling the homebuying rush and homebuilding frenzy. Today, the Texas housing market is about 11 percent overvalued, according to Fitch.

However, Texas’ current housing boom is “out of character with its price history,” and is unsustainable in the long run, said Fitch director and analyst Stefan Hilts.

“What we’re most worried about is speculative buying and selling,” Hilts said. “People aren’t buying houses because they need to; it’s because they can. That’s causing a big market distortion.”

This is not to say that all of the city’s construction projects are suddenly unjustified.  The mini-boom of residential and hotel construction in downtown Houston, for example, is not a measure of over-build.  In fact, the CBD is actually playing catch-up to remain competitive with other cities, especially in the Convention and Tourism sectors.

And of course the construction and housing markets, though inextricably linked because most construction is of the residential variety, are not one and the same.  Even if one sector of housing construction were to slow a bit in 2015, it doesn’t mean that it will tank the rest of market.  Demand for relocation to urban neighborhoods like downtown and the Galleria is still firmly on the rise.

But the potential trouble, if any, could come in the single family market.  If energy prices continue to drop, job and population growth will eventually feel the effects.  In any scenario, it seems virtually impossible for the area to retain record-high home values, as they have driven both property taxes and rents to levels never seen in the best of previous boom years.  Hopefully, those artificial valuations will be the first to go in 2015, allowing a healthy amount of construction activity to continue.

Chase Lantern

Downtown construction at night


Downtown Houston from the Wells Fargo Tower with cranes visible in the lower right corner.


The east side of Downtown is currently dotted with cranes.


Construction just behind a new rail station in Downtown.  The rail line is set to open in April of 2015.



A crane rises above residential houses in the Montrose neighborhood, set to construct a 30-story tower at Montrose and Hawthorne streets.  Due to a lack of comprehensive zoning laws, skyscrapers can be built in virtually any area of Houston.