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Number Ones - Flo Rida ft. Sia 'Wild Ones'

In a recurring series, we analyse the current Australian number one so you don't have to.

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'Wild Ones'
Flo Rida feat. Sia
(Atlantic/Warner)

The new #1 single in Australia this week is 'Wild Ones' by Flo Rida featuring Aussie songstress Sia. It's Flo Rida's ninth top 10 hit in Australia, and his third number one (after 'Low' ft. T-Pain and 'Right Round' ft. Ke$ha). In contrast, it's Sia's first #1 single - though 'Titanium', her collaboration with David Guetta was one of the top 20 bestselling singles of 2011.  It's the first #1 single featuring a female Australian artist since Vanessa Amorosi in 2009 (Kimbra's a Kiwi, fool!), while Sia, at age 36, is the oldest female artist to top the charts since Madonna, who was 50 when '4 Minutes' was a #1 in 2009. Surprisingly, it took not one, not two, but eight co-writers to write 'Wild Ones' (including Flo and Sia). The song was produced by soFLY & Nius, and Axwell; soFLY & Nius are French producers who have not troubled the Australian charts before, while Axwell is a member of Swedish House Mafia. Last week's number one, 'Pumped Up Kicks' by Foster The People, falls to #7 this week. Clearly, after 18 months, everyone in Australia who wants to buy the song has now finally bought it.



There is a long and venerable history of Wild Ones. In the 1950s, an era famously perceived as staid and conservative, rock and rollers and beatniks saw themselves as wild, mad, untamed. The hypocrisies and strictures of the era drove plenty of people wild, and those who rebelled against society often emoted their rebellion instead of offering up articulate politically savvy critique. Most famously, in the 1953 biker movie, The Wild One, Marlon Brando's character is asked "What are you rebelling against?" and utters the iconic reply "What've you got?".

It's hard to find a more succinct summary of the Wild One mentality than that. If John Lennon wore sideburns, it was likely because of The Wild One, and it's not entirely unlikely that the band he was in was named after The Beetles, one of the biker gangs in the movie. And the very first fair dinkum Aussie rock and roll song to reach the Australian charts was Johnny O'Keefe's 'Wild One' from 1958. "Gotta shake, gotta jive, got the message that I gotta be alive", sings O'Keefe, "I'm a wild one." When O'Keefe sings about being alive, he's explicitly contrasting 'alive' with the deadness of the roles society expected of most people - the nuclear family, the steady job. And it's fair to say that, when Jack Kerouac famously talks about his love for "the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars", that his mad ones are the same as the wild ones.

Paeans to the wild ones didn't leave us after the 50s either - see the Troggs and Jimi Hendrix doing 'Wild Thing', see Lou Reed's 'Walk On The Wild Side'. And Iggy Pop, who sliced himself up with glass and rolled around in his own vomit onstage, tried to live his life as a Wild One, and eventually sung a version of 'Wild One' called 'Real Wild Child' where he sings "in a world gone crazy, everything seems hazy, I'm a wild one" (you'll most likely recognise this as the theme to Rage).



Mind you, the rebels of the 1950s didn't invent the idea of the wild ones, the mad ones. In an 1872 book titled The Birth Of Tragedy from the Spirit Of Music, the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche argued that the Ancient Greeks had two Gods of art, Apollo and Dionysus, and that the Greeks accordingly had two conceptions of art, the Apollonian and the Dionysian. Apollo was the god of light, of art, of inner fantasy and dream. Apollonian art, for Nietzsche, sought to use form and technique to inspire and civilise us; Apollonian art was an art of dream. Dionysus, on the other hand, was the god of music and the god of wine, and the God who inspired Bacchanalian orgies. Dionysian art, argued Nietzsche, was art of intoxication, of the "mystical obliteration of the self" through music, drink and/or sex. It's fair to say that Dionysus was the Greek God of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. And rock critics and even musicians were often well aware of Nietzsche and his dichotomy; Lester Bangs famously called Jim Morrison of the Doors the 'bozo Dionysus'. Morrison himself, who studied film and art theory at university before starting a rock band, was allegedly quite taken with The Birth of Tragedy. Robert Christgau even wrote a critical essay about the idea of Dionysus and Apollo in rock music, analysing the way other music critics had used the analogy. 

It's also fair to say that Nietzsche preferred the Dionysian, and that he likely would have been a fan of Flo Rida and Sia's 'Wild Ones', were he living today. "There are people who, from a lack of experience or out of apathy, turn mockingly or pityingly away from [sex, drugs and rock'n'roll] as from a “sickness of the people,” with a sense of their own health," said Nietzsche. "These poor people naturally do not have any sense of how deathly and ghost-like this very “health” of theirs sounds, when the glowing life of the Dionysian throng roars past them." Nietzsche argued that, while Apollonian art sought to better us, the Dionysian art showed us as we really are, as the savages underneath our civilised clothing. "With what astonishment must the Apollonian Greek have gazed at [the Dionysian]! With an amazement which was all the greater as he sensed with horror that all this might not be really so foreign to him, that, in fact, his Apollonian consciousness was, like a veil, merely covering the Dionysian world in front of him." This is all stuff you can imagine a Flo Rida fan saying about a Fleet Foxes fan.

And it's fair to say that Flo Rida's 'Wild Ones', like much of the music which revolves around The Club, is a pretty good representation of Dionysian art. Flo Rida raps about his intoxication, both metaphorically and literally. "I like crazy, foolish, stupid/ Party going wild, fist pumping music/ I might lose it" are the first words he raps, and before too long he mentions how he has "got a hangover like too much vodka". All that Flo Rida knows is that  "somehow, someway" he's "gotta raise the roof, roof". He's pure, unrestrained party id here.

Sia, on the other hand, is more reserved in her hedonism, at first. In her odd, Billie Holiday-esque voice, she sings the first two choruses over little more than anthemic Coldplay-esque block piano chords; "Hey, I heard you were a wild one", she sings, and further comments that "If I took you home, you'd be a home run". Oddly, the two parts of the song - Sia's chorus and Flo Rida's verses - sound like different songs altogether. In contrast to Sia's Coldplay piano, Flo Rida sings his raps over fairly standard post-Guetta disco beats. It's not until the third chorus that Sia sings her chorus over the disco beats, bringing the two parts of the songs together. But before too long she's singing the bridge over minimal piano again. But this makes a sort of sense; Flo Rida is a fairly unabashed Dionysian - his music has always celebrated intoxication of one sort or another. In contrast, Sia's music is generally more Apollonian, more concerned with self-expression than self-obliteration.

(Continued next page)

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