While much of the speculation before Sunday’s Grammy Awards telecast focused on stealth reports of performances by Beyonce, Madonna and Pharrell, little information slipped out about Sia’s reworking of her hit song and video “Chandelier.”
“It was something of an experiment,” said Grammy show executive producer Ken Ehrlich. “I wondered if it’s still even possible to have surprises on television in this day and age.”
To that end, a smattering of onlookers during rehearsals last week for the show were told in no uncertain terms, “No cameras, no cellphones, no social media during this rehearal,” an announcer warned. “If we see your phone out, we will take it. We promise you will get it back by Christmas.”
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Sia again enlisted young dancer-acrobat Maddie Ziegler as well as actress-comedian Kristen Wiig, formerly of “Saturday Night Live,” for the performance that took place in an overstuffed apartment. Wiig and Ziegler engaged in more of the interpretative dance moves that characterized the wildly popular “Chandelier” video, while Sia herself kept her back to the audience and the cameras and sang the song into a microphone poking through a hole in the back wall of the set.
“I’ve been a supporter of her work and have been looking for an opportunity to work with her,” Ehrlich said. “She’s been working here in the U.S. for a long time, and ‘Chandelier’ has given her that breakthrough. She came to me with an idea of how she wanted to do it, and when she was done, I had to say I really didn’t understand it.
“I’m a reasonably bright guy, but I just didn’t get it. So she said she’d write it all out and send it to me, and I still didn’t understand. But she kept coming back and refining it and refining it, and the concept got clearer and clearer, and the more we worked on it, the more I got it.”
Employing a physical vocabulary more in line with modern dance than the moves that show up in most pop stars’ live and video production numbers, Sia’s mis-en-scene for “Chandelier” cast Wiig and Ziegler as separate but related alter egos in her song about surviving deep emotional wounds.
“Extremely innovative,” concluded Grammy show host LL Cool J after he stared intently at the video playback of the number during rehearsals on Thursday. “That’s what this Grammy show is all about.”
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