Commercially, the single reached the top 5 in several countries, including Australia and the United Kingdom.
Billboard editor Gil Kaufman described "The Greatest" as a "uplifting, poppy song with a subtle island vibe."
Critical reception Edit
Jessica Goodman from Entertainment Weekly found the chorus "massive and catchy." Once the critics had picked up on the song's connection with the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting, Spencer Kornhaber of The Atlantic wrote:
|“||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)."|
|— Spencer Kornhaber|
Music video Edit
|Release date:||September 6, 2016|
|Director(s):||Sia, Daniel Askill|
The music video was directed by Sia and Daniel Askill and choreographed by Ryan Heffington. It was released on September 5, 2016.
Writers from various media outlets, including E! Online and 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 shortlived, however. Later, a wall is seen riddled with bullet holes as everyone falls to the ground, and tears stream down Ziegler's face. 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.|
|— Spencer Kornhaber|
Live performance 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. Sia and Ziegler performed the song during the former's performance at the 2016 iHeartRadio Music Festival on September 23, 2016.
|This Is Acting|