The Greatest (Sia song)

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"The Greatest"
The artwork portrays the head and shoulders of a teenage girl wearing a black bobbed wig, with rainbow colours on her cheeks
Single cover, featuring Maddie Ziegler
Single by Sia featuring Kendrick Lamar
from the album This Is Acting (Deluxe edition)
Released 5 September 2016 (2016-09-05)
Format Digital download
Recorded 2016
Genre
Length 3:30
Label
  • Monkey Puzzle
  • RCA
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s) Kurstin
Sia singles chronology
"Cheap Thrills"
(2016)
"The Greatest"
(2016)
"Never Give Up"
(2016)

"Cheap Thrills"
(2016)
"The Greatest"
(2016)
"Never Give Up"
(2016)
Kendrick Lamar singles chronology
"Holy Key"
(2016) Holy Key2016
"The Greatest"
(2016) The Greatest2016
"Freedom"
(2016) Freedom2016
Music video
"The Greatest" (Audio) ft. Kendrick Lamar) on YouTube
"The Greatest" on YouTube

"The Greatest" is a song recorded by Australian singer and songwriter Sia for the deluxe edition of her seventh studio album, This Is Acting (2016). Being made available for digital consumption as the record's third single on 5 September 2016 through Monkey Puzzle and RCA Records, "The Greatest" features the vocal collaboration of American rapper Kendrick Lamar. The electropop and tropical house song was written by Sia, Greg Kurstin, and Lamar while production was solely handled by Kurstin. The solo version was written solely by the former two. The song was initially supposed to be in a new album called We Are Your Children.[1]

An accompanying music video for the single was filmed by Sia and Daniel Askill, and portrays American dancer Maddie Ziegler among 48 others.[2] Although the singer has not provided an interpretation of the video's plot, numerous media outlets have perceived it as a tribute to the 49 victims of the Orlando nightclub shooting.[3] Commercially, "The Greatest" reached the top five in several countries and was awarded with certifications in various territories. The music video has been nominated for a 2017 MTV Video Music Award for Best Choreography.[4]

Composition[edit]

Billboard editor Gil Kaufman described "The Greatest" as an "uplifting, poppy song with a subtle island vibe."[5]

The song is written in the key of C minor with a cut common time tempo of 96 beats per minute. The vocals span from B♭3 to E♭5 in the song.[6]

Critical reception[edit]

Jessica Goodman from Entertainment Weekly found the chorus "massive and catchy."[7] Once the critics had picked up on the song's connection with the Orlando nightclub shooting, Spencer Kornhaber of The Atlantic wrote:

Making pop about a specific tragedy is necessarily a tricky job. So it's no crime that some of the other mainstream original songs memorializing Orlando have been as rote as issue-oriented singles are often stereotyped as being. ... But "The Greatest" is very potent, a work of art, not charity. ... There's no break here from the rest of Sia's catalogue about pain and release in everyday life: You hear a sad voice wailing about bucking up, very stark emotional peaks and valleys, and a danceable backing of explosive drums, toy-box melodies, and reggae grooves. Sia and Greg Kurstin may have written the song even before the massacre. But in the context of Orlando, the possible platitude of the chorus becomes gutting: "I'm free to be the greatest / I'm alive." She's pepping the listener up, but she's also defining the value of life, marking the human potential that's been lost.[8]

The Orlando shooting commemoration was also praised by Bruno Russell from The Edge, who called the song's concept "inspirational" as "the message is clear: that we can make a difference and be 'The Greatest,' but we have to act now." Russell awarded a 5-star review for the song, praising her performance as having "somewhat of a narrative feel, especially from the childish nature of the instrumental backing, which emphasises the vulnerability there to be exposed and challenged (though, at the same time, there is also a power within this from the more powerful chorus)." Russell also praised Lamar's rap in the single release of the track.[9]

Chart performance[edit]

Upon the song's release, "The Greatest" debuted on several charts worldwide, including the US Billboard Hot 100 at number 52, UK Singles Chart at 49, and Australian Singles Chart at number 25, and achieved top ten debuts in France,[10] New Zealand,[11] Scotland, Finland, Norway,[12] Hungary, Spain, and Sweden.[13] In its second week on UK Singles Chart, the song climbed to number 5, making it Sia's ninth top ten single on that chart, and Kendrick's second.[14][15] It later rose to number 2 in Australia,[16] number 1 in Switzerland,[17] and number 18 in the US.[18] In its fourth week on the singles chart, "The Greatest" was certified Gold in both Australia and Canada.[19]

Music video[edit]

The music video was directed by Sia and Daniel Askill[20] and choreographed by Ryan Heffington. The director of Photography was Mathieu Plainfosse. It was released on 5 September 2016 and has been viewed on YouTube more than 550 million times.[21]

Writers from numerous media outlets, including E! Online, Cosmopolitan, Variety, People magazine, concluded that the video was a tribute to the victims of the Orlando nightclub shooting. The video opens with a low drone and cuts between shots of a fraught Maddie Ziegler smearing rainbow colors on her cheeks. She frees 48 other young people trapped in a cage (49 being the number of people killed in the shooting); their freedom is short-lived, however. Later, a wall is seen riddled with bullet holes as everyone falls to the ground, and tears stream down Ziegler's face.[3][20] Kornhaber wrote:

Absent of any social context, it's all striking and beautiful and ineffably sad. With the knowledge that it was inspired by queer youths and friends gunned down in the act of coming together and enjoying themselves, it becomes almost unbearably poignant. Sia keeps singing about having stamina; Kendrick Lamar's verse, omitted from the video, is all about surviving adversity and haters. What’s so potent about the video—and so specifically awful about this massacre—is that its subjects do seem to have struggled and triumphed to find the freedom to flip out together, and they are still cut down. It's bookended by Ziegler crying: As is appropriate, there's no take-home moral to make what happened seem okay.[8]

Live performances[edit]

On 7 September 2016, Sia, Ziegler and several other dancers performed "The Greatest" live for the first time at the 2016 Apple launch of the iPhone 7 at San Francisco's Bill Graham Civic Auditorium.[22][23] Sia and Ziegler performed the song during her performance at the 2016 iHeartRadio Music Festival on 23 September 2016. The song is included on Sia's Nostalgic for the Present Tour.[24]

Track listing[edit]

  • Digital download
  1. "The Greatest" (featuring Kendrick Lamar) – 3:30
  • Digital download
  1. "The Greatest" – 3:30
  • Digital download[25]
  1. "The Greatest" (KDA Remix) (featuring Kendrick Lamar) – 3:41

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Australia (ARIA)[104] 2× Platinum 140,000^
Austria (IFPI Austria)[105] Gold 15,000*
Belgium (BEA)[106] Platinum 30,000*
Canada (Music Canada)[107] 3× Platinum 240,000^
Denmark (IFPI Denmark)[108] Platinum 60,000^
France (SNEP)[109] Diamond 233,333*
Germany (BVMI)[110] Platinum 400,000^
Italy (FIMI)[111] 4× Platinum 200,000double-dagger
Mexico (AMPROFON)[112] Platinum 60,000*
New Zealand (RMNZ)[113] Platinum 30,000*
Poland (ZPAV)[114] 4× Platinum 80,000*
Spain (PROMUSICAE)[115] Platinum 40,000^
Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)[116] Platinum 30,000^
United Kingdom (BPI)[117] Platinum 600,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[118] Gold 500,000double-dagger

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
double-daggersales+streaming figures based on certification alone

Release history[edit]

Region Date Format Version Label Ref.
Worldwide 7 September 2016 Digital download Duet
  • Monkey Puzzle
  • Inertia
  • RCA
[119][120][121]
Italy 16 September 2016 Contemporary hit radio Sony [122]
United States 27 September 2016 RCA [123]
Italy 29 September 2016 Solo Sony [124]
United States 18 October 2016 Rhythmic contemporary Duet RCA [125]
24 October 2016 Hot adult contemporary [126]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]