Published Jan 27, 2016Sia, née Sia Furler, has had quite the time since releasing 2014's 1000 Forms of Fear, releasing two absolute smash singles with "Chandelier" and "Elastic Heart" complete with beautifully choreographed music videos that probably increased the sales of blunt-cut blonde bob wigs worldwide. She claims that that record was put out to end a publishing deal: "I was planning to be a pop song writer for other artists. But my publishing deal was as an artist so I had to put one more album out," she told NME last February. "I didn't want to get famous so I kept all the songs I wanted and had a lot of fun making it."
The smash successes were unforeseen, and inspired Sia to continue to put ponderings to paper and pen herself more pop. The result is This Is Acting, her seventh studio album, and one that certainly hits the pop bullseye. The album boasts a smattering of songs that were intended for other heavyweights: the Adele and Tobias Jesso Jr. co-written "Alive" (initially meant for the former to sing) features a booming, soaring chorus not unlike that of "Hello," while the tropical-tinged and bright "Cheap Thrills" is a Rihanna reject with a dancehall-derived drum beat and a children's choir on the refrain.
Sia's vocal prowess is fully evident on the record, with plenty of the vocal fry that's she's know for (akin to Björk's effervescent style, or Buddy Holly's vocal hiccup technique). Her vocal play becomes a tad tired during "One Million Bullets" as she puts an exaggerated breathy spin on the pre-chorus, but she quickly transitions to blowing the listener away in the chorus. The heavy-hitting "Move Your Body" can be succinctly described as a club banger; the fun, bouncy "Sweet Design" amusingly samples Sisqo's "Thong Song" and is paired with cheeky lyrics that reference someone who's "got an ass like my sweet design"; the terribly catchy, Kanye-produced "Reaper" speaks of evading the grasp of the Grim Reaper and bad times in general; "Unstoppable" sounds eerily like a pared down version of "Chandelier" until the chorus begins. "I'm so powerful, I don't need batteries to play, I'm so confident, I'm unstoppable today," she sings on the latter, which can be either cheesy or inspirational, depending on the pair of ears. Regardless, Sia's got an undeniable knack for writing empowering ballads and pop bangers, and both share the spotlight here.
This Is Acting is a fine follow-up to 1000 Forms of Fear, but doesn't quite present anything extraordinary or new; Sia sticks to her established playbook, so to speak, with messages of female empowerment, being forlorn, troubles in love and having unfettered, do-what-I-please kind of fun. Some of the tracks, like the first few ballads, feel a tad exhausted and perhaps a little clichéd, but that's the nature of Sia's universal, inclusive pop music, and on This is Acting, she approaches it in an intriguing way and performs it with gusto. (RCA)