16 April 2016
Whenever I’m asked why I love Eurovision so much, I always give the same answer: the music! You only need look at my CD collection for proof. Here’s more proof. When Australia was announced as an entrant for the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest, it got everyone thinking about the prospective candidate. Dami Im, thanks to her loyal and vociferous fans known as the “Dami Army”, was the name constantly popping up. I’d barely heard of her at this point, only knowing she emerged from a reality TV show. When I checked a few of her songs, I was convinced she’d be a great choice. Being young and exciting, she was ideal for Eurovision. Sony Records eventually chose Guy Sebastian, to a lacklustre response. All that is history now as Guy proved a worthy candidate and Dami gets her chance for 2016.
After Eurovision of 2015, I remained intrigued by Dami Im, so when I spotted her 2014 album Heart Beats on sale for $10, I jumped at it. Coincidentally, Sia’s album 1000 Forms Of Fear happened to be a present for Christmas 2014. Other than her song Chandelier, she was also another artist I barely knew about. Yes, I don’t get out much!
Being consumed by other priorities, notably the Eurovision 2015 album and new music from some established favourite artists, it wasn’t until July or so of 2015 that I eventually dived into Heart Beats and 1000 Forms Of Fear. Listening to them during the same period, the one unmistakable feeling I had about them was their similarity in standard. I really couldn’t decide this hypothetical question, of which one is better. Heart Beats seemed more consistent while 1000 Forms Of Fear had at least two songs that were better than any of Dami’s. I figured it would be a close contest if I ever decided to compare the two, and began devising formats for this possibility. As time dragged on, the relevance for such a comparison seemed gone, even though I always remained intrigued about the outcome.
Now is the time for a comparison, and the beauty of doing it now is that both albums have been rested for about 8 months. It’s as though they’ve been in secret training to prepare. I will listen to them fresh again, pairing the songs by track order and listening one at a time, alternating the first listen between each album as I progress. In scoring the battle, we’ll using boxing’s system. The winning song gets 10 points, the loser 9 points. If songs can’t be split, both get 10 points. In the case of a vastly inferior song, a knock-down will be considered, so the losing song will get 8 points, maybe 7, depending on the severity of the knock-down. If an album has extra songs, as Heart Beats does, those songs will be compared against the album’s other songs. If they are in the range of the album’s best, one point will be added to the total. If they are in the range of the weaker songs, one point will be deducted. If they are average, no points will be assigned. Remixes or extra versions are ignored.
Round 1: Superlove vs Chandelier
The worldwide phenomenon that is Chandelier ordinarily would be a knockout over just about any other song. It speaks to the strength of Superlove that, while Chandelier is clearly superior and was able to inflict a knock-down, it’s no knockout. 8-10
Round 2: Gladiator vs Big Girls Cry
This was a tough decision, and needed a video replay, by way of an extra listen of each song. Big Girls Cry runs out of steam by the end, while Gladiator only gets stronger. Dami bounces back and wins the round. 10-9
Round 3: Living Dangerously vs Burn The Pages
I simply love Living Dangerously – and maybe it’s my favourite song from Heart Beats. It recalls great memories of how Dami’s album really grew on me as I listened through it. Now to Burn The Pages, oh, this is great too! Mmmm…. This is difficult. On a second listen, Living Dangerously has a bit more substance to it and, at a minute longer too, is landing extra blows to confirm victory for the round. 10-9
Round 4: Without You vs Eye Of The Needle
Two ballads. First thoughts again is that Sia’s song starts so well, quickly ingratiating itself with Sia’s unique sound and style, and then doesn’t really do much more. I’m recalling now that occasionally Sia’s album did drift into monotony. Without You is a far stronger, all-round song, with truly beautiful vocals. I especially love Dami’s pronunciation of “stay”. A shame it’s not Dami’s Eurovision song. Maybe this was my favourite from the album. 10-8
Round 5: Moment Like This vs Hostage
Both are happy, effervescent types of songs, and both are really good. This was a difficult round to split, requiring a third listen of each song. Hostage ultimately had me bopping about a bit more and had a bit more to it, especially through the bridge. 9-10
Round 6: Speak Up vs Straight For The Knife
This was a tough decision, mostly because of the contrasting nature of each song. Do you reward the consistent jabs from Sia’s song or the occasional big blows from Dami’s? One area that Dami excels is vocal range and strength, and here it’s at its most powerful. It starts out so beautifully soft before becoming quite raucus. Sometimes too much for my ears at these higher pitches. Sia’s classic languid style is really on show here and it’s a really interesting song. After a second listen, Dami’s actually has more to it and those big blows eventually tell. 10-9
Round 7: Beauty In The World vs Fair Game
More contrasting styles. A fun, bubbly song from Dami versus a drab, talkative song from Sia. Generally, these songs that sound more like talking than singing do little for me, and Fair Game is only saved by it being wrapped in Sia’s inimitable style. It’s not enough, doing more evading than engaging, so loses the round. 10-9
Round 8: Let Go vs Elastic Hearts
This is the monotony phase of Sia’s album that I spoke about earlier. While Elastic Hearts is a vast improvement over the previous song, it lasts way too long and restores that feeling of monotony before its completion. In comparison, Let Go is such a soft, sweet song. Dami again. 10-9
Round 9: One More Time vs Free The Animal
Free The Animal is an apt title as Sia breaks free with one of the best songs on the album. It’s as though she was experimenting with the previous three songs before unleashing this. Even though it’s quite long at four and half minutes, it never overstays its welcome. One More Time does very little wrong in comparison, being a fun, funky song. In fact, I love it! It’s only fault is being up against a beast. 9-10
Round 10: Heart Beats Again vs Fire Meets Gasoline
I knew Sia had this bomb ready to explode on Dami. I recalled the “Gasoline” song late in the album as one of my favourites, if not the favourite. It captures everything so good about Chandelier and adds to it – particularly a stronger bridge and finish to the song. The question is what Dami throws up against it. Heart Beats Again is Dami’s rawest and sensitive song, and is decent enough in its own right. Unfortunately it can’t repel firepower of the magnitude of Fire Meets Gasoline. 8-10
Round 11: The Hunger vs Cellophone
Dami quickly extinguishes the fire with this quite beautiful song. Cellophane is another four and a half minute meandering slog from Sia, if you like that sort of stuff. I don’t. 10-9
Round 12: Heart So Dry vs Dressed In Black
Another beautiful ballad from Dami, reminiscent of Heart Beats Again, except a bit bigger in sound and chorus. The vocals still stay softer – in my personal sweetspot for her range. Dressed In Black is the final song from Sia, so needs to leave a legacy, and it does. Calling on all the album’s hallmarks, it does a great job of mixing the likes of Chandelier with the slower, meandering songs. It’s almost too self-indulgent, dedicating the last two minutes of its six and half journey to non-stop “whoa, whoa, whoa” warbling and almost losing the round. 9-10
Dami Im – Bonus Round: Solid Ground (Stop The World)
This reminds me of a Burt Bacharach song, being quite a pleasant piano song. Given the overall strength of Dami’s album, it sits in the lower group of songs so Heart Beats loses a point. -1
Dami Im – Bonus Round: Beautiful
The final original song from Dami, and it’s a wonderful finale to the album. Is it in the top echelon of album’s best songs? Yes! +1
The winner is…
Dami Im – Heart Beats: 113
Sia – 1000 Forms Of Fear: 112
Wow! It was so close. I figured that middle section Dami had built an insurmountable lead, even allowing for the impending Fire Meets Gasoline.
In summary, Heart Beats really is the more consistent album. There’s no song that I didn’t like, whereas 1000 Forms Of Fear had at least one dud, maybe two, and a notable section of general malaise. Overall, both are great albums from superb Australian artists. Let’s just say, everyone’s a winner!
This battle has inspired me to re-engaged with Heart Beats. Whenever I travel, I like to have one album be a theme for the trip, so when I hear those songs later in time, they are associated with great memories. When I fly out to Stockholm in just over two weeks, via Singapore, Helsinki and a day in Tallinn, Heart Beats will be the first album I select. It’s poetic of course, considering Dami Im will be representing Australia in Stockholm, meaning any success by Dami will be now that much more exciting.