Album Review: Sia—“This Is Acting”

By Savana James

This Is Acting marks Sia’s seventh LP release, and presents one of her most interesting collection of tracks to date. This album is a difficult one to review. Her last release, 1000 Forms of Fear is a brilliant collection of pop tunes and raw ballads that established Sia in all of her mystery. This Is Acting is the almost immediate followup. The released singles, Alive and Unstoppable were familiar gut-wrenching anthem type songs, moody and wild and overwhelming with energy. I expected This Is Acting to be a collection of songs equally raw and powerful, reminiscent of her earlier albums. However, the album turned out to be something entirely different than expected.

SIA-This-is-Acting[1]

Album art for This Is Acting

It’s important to know a brief bit of Sia’s history in the industry to understand what makes This Is Acting such an interesting album. Sia is probably one of the most prolific songwriters of this era, responsible for some of pop musics biggest commercial hits (see: Rihanna’s “Diamonds”, Beyoncé’s “Pretty Hurts”, or David Guetta’s “Titanium”). This is not only a testament to her songwriting talent, but gives her a lot of street cred in the pop music scene. It was Daivd Guetta’s “Titanium” that launched her somewhat quiet career to one of superstardom- something she outwardly loathes. She has no issue displaying her distaste for the fame that comes with being a pop star. She’s now known for never showing her face, with her live performances and music videos being beautiful performance art pieces. In comparison to other artists on the charts, she’s established herself as being nothing short of mysterious.

This history is what marks This Is Acting as such a standout album for me. Unlike her last releases, this is an album made entirely of tracks written for others. Every track was written for a different pop star, and consequently rejected. The fact that Sia made a whole album out of reject tracks is both cheeky and brilliant. (At least, it is to me.) In each song she adopts a different role, presents a different style of music, with different styles of writing and performance. She showcases how multifaceted she is, and the multitude of song writing styles she’s capable of. Sia truly gives her audience everything she’s got.

The differences in the tracks make this collection less cohesive or thematic, but still a great listen and a testament to her talent. The most notable tracks are “Alive” and “Bird Set Free”. They show the Sia most are familiar with, both songs being powerful pop ballads. “Reaper”, a track written alongside Kanye West is a favourite of mine. It’s a super cool song, dominated by some groovy bass, drums and chill vocals. Songs like “Move Your Body” and “Cheap Thrills” are fast paced, made for radio pop hits that any mainstream star could take on. “Sweet Design” and “Broken Glass” are another two favourites of mine, showing a different kind of indie pop.

All of these tracks, despite their stark differences in style and sound, all feature Sia’s crisp vocal bravado. Her voice crackles along in these individual tracks, making them shine. Each song is like a separate performance, creating new individual experiences for the listener. This is Acting is Sia putting on an amazing performance, track after track, with a multitude of roles. And if theres one thing that defines Sia, it’s her ability to put on a brilliant show.

Listen: “Reaper”

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