This Is Acting – Sia (2016)

Sia-musical-guest-on-the-41st-season-NBCs-Saturday-Night-Live

Australian Singer/Songwriter Sia Furler released her 7th studio album in January 2016 which was the follow up to the enormously successful “1000 Forms of fear” which elevated Sia to the masses and garnered much praise.

I have been aware of Sia since her track “Little Man” in 2001. I have listened to a few of her albums and enjoyed her vocal style and lyrics about life, love and addiction.

Whilst I always admired her I never thought she would achieve mainstream success so it is refreshing to see an artist make it big later on in their career and not simply be defined by the debut album.

But whilst I am pleased for her and wish Sia much luck I can’t say I am too thrilled with the music on this album or the previous one. The production is all very similar with the big echoy drum being the basis of just about every song.

Despite this the strongest song on the album is the opener “Bird Set Free” which has a pleasent piano rift and lyrics that are very personal and connect more with Sia than it would have ever done for Adele or Rihanna whom the song was offered to before this version from Sia.

I’m not gon’ care if I sing off key
I find myself in my melodies
I sing for love, I sing for me
I shout it out like a bird set free

The lead single from this album is the second track “Alive”. Lyrically the song is about survival and the fear of life in general. Sia has a way in her lyrics of making things quite dramatic but the layers of intensity and the insecurity that pours out from her voice makes a track like this work.

My main issue with this song and many of her recent music is the shouty vocals. I am never a fan of chorus’ that just have the vocalist bellowing even with artists I like (Alicia Keys “Girl On Fire” for instance). Some may say that the vocal shows what a powerhouse Sia is but I believe her vocal has more to it than just shouting.

“One Million Bullets” suffers from uninteresting production. There seems to be very little diversity in any of the production on this album and the instrumental on this track is constructed in the same way as the previous album and just about everything on this set.

Lyrically the song is about fear in a relationship and the insecurity that the other person may not have the same amount of love that Sia is displaying.

“Move Your Body” is a little different as it is straight up dance song. The problem with this track is it sounds as if it was meant for someone else. I don’t mean that in a silly way as I KNOW that this album and most of Sia’s recent material seemed to be songs for someone else (this was meant for Shakira) but if Sia is going to then make an album of all these rejected songs she could at least connect them to herself and this sounds as if Sia is in fact singing someone else song.

“Unstoppable” is Sia again displaying her fragility and the need to stand up straight and be defiant. The song is about self confidence and having the ability to take on anything the world is going to throw at her. It is perhaps an overdone theme and again the production is so very boring the song fades away at around the 2m25 mark.

“Cheap Thrills” is a fun track. It’s bouncy with this sort of reggae influenced beat (Jamaican artist Sean Paul features on the official remix) which will have you nodding your head and the hook is very catchy.  The song is about partying, not needing money to have fun and generally just having a good time.

“Reaper” is a track I like. The use of the word “Reaper” seems to be about bad feelings. I interpret it as either just a feeling of negativty that washes over you or in fact it is a person who has the ability to bring you down. Whichever it is I like the sentitment that there is an awareness that this is happening and the song seems to be dealing with depression and how it can take hold of you.

In an interview Sia mentions that she doesn’t like this song and doesn’t connect to it. It is comments like this (which I am sure she believes of other tracks on the album) that have me questioning what this set is all about and if the record company have simply cashed in on her recent success.

“House On Fire” is a simple track. The Hip Hop beat sees Sia singing about not being able to live without someone and that they are the oxygen and she is the fire that wants to keep burning. Tired old lyrics in a very underwhelming song.

The 9th track is “Footprints” which was apparently meant for Beyonce. A relativity short track the song takes influence from the Bible verse which talks about feeling as if someone is with you and realising that you have not been abandoned.

Oh, I forgot the things I knew
It was I who’d abandoned you
Forgive me, I was lost in doubt
Who would never’ve left my side
Picked me up when I thought I would die
You helped me, and I was found

“Sweet Design” changes the tone of the entire album. Production wise it seems as if we have been transported to the early 2000’s. The song is bouncy and much more fun than most. Sia’s vocal is quickened and she is giving her satirical take on pop music lyrics. The song isn’t meant to be serious and I like it’s element of humour.

The penultimate track is “Broken Glass”. Sia is comfortable on this track and vocally she sounds excellent. She doesn’t over do it and we are able to hear the wonderful tone she has to her voice.

We end “This Is Acting” with “Space Between”. This is the slowest track on the album and Sia’s vocal carries this brilliantly. The instrumentation is simplistic and almost akin to George Michael’s “A Different Corner”. This display of airy yet powerful vocals show the real talent Sia has and this is a solid song.

My main problem with “This Is Acting” is that it is boring. It seems rushed together and just pieces of discarded material (which it is). Many of the songs were obviously rejected for a reason and it does seem like an opportunistic attempt by the record company to milk the recent Sia success for everything they can.

If you want to get into Sia then this is not the album to do so and there are many more varied and interesting albums by this talented singer/songwriter.

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