Image Credit: Kris Krug/

Sia – ‘This is Acting’

Image Credit: Wikimedia CommonsIt’s been a wild few years for Sia Furlur. After nearly two decades in the music industry, her 6th studio album, 1000 Forms of Fear, was set to be her last; a contractual obligation that would free her from her recording label. However the album’s striking combination of powerful, emotive vocals and pained, personal narrative resonated with many, leading to it becoming a breakout hit and ultimately convincing Furlur to stay in the game.

Now, two years on, Sia returns, this time delivering us a uniquely experimental album that acts as something of a peak behind the curtain of the music industry. Essentially a collection of songs originally written for, but ultimately rejected by, other A-list artists This Is Acting serves as a demonstration of not only the versatility of Sia’s songwriting, but of her understanding of the music landscape as a whole. For any other artist, an album consisting solely of rejected tracks would present too great a challenge to successfully execute, but the veteran artist succeeds not only in delivering on the promise these tracks evidently showed, but demonstrating an ability to effectively meld her own distinct voice and style with those of the artists these tracks were originally envisioned for.

This Is Acting serves as a demonstration of not only the versatility of Sia’s songwriting, but of her understanding of the music landscape as a whole.

Chief amongst these is ‘Alive’, arguably the standout track on the album. Originally written for Adele, its long, protracted vocals and thumping base notes perfectly suit Sia’s own style, creating a song that seems more at home with the Australian artist than with it’s original owner. Whilst, Adele delivers a deep soulfulness, Sia delivers a raw ferocity that elevates the song, granting it a gravitas it might have otherwise lacked. Much the same can be said of ‘Unstoppable’, a track that mixes delicate and soulful verses with a powerful and energetic chorus to create something that is at once catchy and memorable. Thematically it fits the tone of Demi Lovato’s 2015 album Confident, yet it would be hard to imagine Lovato executing it as effectively as Sia, who seems to have mastered its performance. ‘House on Fire’ also stands out as unexpectedly memorable, perhaps because more than any other track it seems to belong to Sia, paralleling 1000 Forms of Fear’s ‘Fire Meet Gasoline’ both tonally and thematically, producing equally effective results.

The album also manages to delver a few surprises in the form of ‘Move Your Body’ and ‘Cheap Thrills’, the former a Europop jam that feels torn straight from a 90’s dance-floor and thrown into the 21st century after a brief stop off to a Shakira concert, with Sia at times sounding almost identical to the Colombian singer. Likewise, the later captures the essence of an engaging club track, but approaches it from a more mellow and relaxed angle, creating a track that feels at home both on the dance-floor and on the bus ride home.

What makes Sia’s new album stand out against her other work is its tone.

However the album isn’t without its flaws, with ‘Sweet Design’ being the greatest offender. As a hip-hop infused, clappy-rap track, it jarringly contrasts with the tonally gentler ‘Footprints’ and ‘Broken Glass’ that sit on either side of it, creating an inconsistent flow for the back end of the album. The track seems something of a step too far, too brash and crass in nature to suit Sia’s style, leading to a song that feels wrong for her and out of place even for the experimental nature of the album. Its sharp percussion and frenetic nature may appeal to some, but generally it feels like a misstep. Plus, sampling Sisqó’s ‘Thong Song’ is never going to score you any points.

More than anything, what makes Sia’s new album stand out against her other work is its tone; if 1000 Forms of Fear embodied struggle and pain, then This is Acting is a catharsis; a punchy, energetic album focused on personal triumph. Whilst it’s shift towards a more pop-esque sound poses the risk of it slipping into genericism, Sia’s unique sound ensures that the album still flashes with moments of vocal brilliance. And even though the album never quite reaches the lofty heights of it’s predecessor, one almost feels like it was never supposed to. For Sia, the album really is acting; a chance for her to enjoy and experiment with her craft, rather than a masterclass in vocal artistry. But whilst ultimately it may just be acting, it’s still damn good acting.


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