With just one button and about one minute, Robert Yang’s Chandelier swings between the mundane, careless joy, a brief moment of comedy, and then ends on tragedy. To play it, you might not think much of it at first, other than it being a silly literal spin on Sia’s electropop hit “Chandelier,” which it is based upon. But look a little deeper and you’ll find that it’s also an interactive analogy for the life of a party girl.
It starts with a prompt to hit the spacebar which, upon doing so, causes the chandelier hanging from the ceiling to rock very slightly to the right. This small act, along with Sia’s powerful chorus cry “I’m gonna swing from the chandelier,” is your first sniff of cocaine. You become enthralled by the playful physics, tapping the spacebar more and more to cause the chandelier to swing ever more violently.
By this time you’ve probably personified the chandelier by reading its progressive swinging as an expression of joy resulting from hearing Sia’s looping chorus. It’s the song that also introduces the context that shifts the game into a concise and tragic metaphor.
As those familiar with “Chandelier” will know, Sia sings from the perspective of a party girl, who rationalizes her alcoholism as “a good time call.” The chorus references the act of swinging from a chandelier as it has, for a long time, been a symbol of luxurious recklessness—a lavish item turned into a kid’s plaything. In the song, it’s equated to the careless alcohol consumption of a kid who, ironically, regrets most of it (“here comes the shame,” Sia sings).
Robert has us re-enact the devil-may-care attitude of the party girls that Sia sings about. That’s why it’s easy to get caught up in the momentum of the chandelier swinging jubilantly from the ceiling. It makes you feel invincible, like you “can’t feel anything,” as Sia informs us. But whereas Sia’s “Chandelier” focuses on the repressed feelings that, it is suggested, inform and encourage the binging and boozing, Robert’s Chandelier has us experience what seem to be the inevitable consequences of it.
So, predictably, you end up taking it a dose too far, as your swinging causes the chandelier to detach from the ceiling and land with a loud scrape on the floor. At first this might seem funny, like seeing someone fall over, but the immediacy with which you’re plunged into a dark silence sends out a different tone.
More powerful in its message is the helpless twitching the chandelier performs if you hit the spacebar again. Its inability to right itself confirms the tragedy of the fall it has taken. It’s a disturbing image—resembling cadaveric spasm—especially given the song that it’s based on. This is the end, and perhaps the death, of the party girl whose life of living “like tomorrow doesn’t exist” eventually caught up to her.