Sia’s videos are always strange and thought provoking, her layered lyrics combined with emotive dance routines featuring Maddie Ziegler generally leaving the viewer unnerved in some way or another.
“The Greatest” adds a new level to that. Serving as a tribute to the victims of the Orlando LGBT nightclub shooting a few months ago, the video features young dancers (one for everyone who died in the massacre) alternating between slumping on the ground and dancing. Alone, it fits with Sia’s “unnerving” theme. Coupled with the meaning behind it, and the lyrics, proclaiming “I’m free to be the greatest, I’m alive,” it’s a heartbreaking tribute to all the futures taken away that night.
As many others have already pointed out, what makes this video so remarkable is that it doesn’t feel gimmicky. It isn’t charged with a political message, and it doesn’t try to make us feel better about what happened. Maddie cries in the beginning, before the dancers “wake up” for the song, and she cries at the end after they’ve fallen back to the floor. It invites the viewer to mourn with her, and asks no more than that.