After 2014’s 1000 Forms of Fear took off with its abundance of pop hits like “Chandelier,” Sia became synonymous with a new hyper-emotional trend in pop music. Her newest album This Is Acting takes this style to the next level, increasing the intensity of almost every aspect of her music.
Sia Furler’s mainstream career began not with her solo releases or her work with electronica band Zero 7, but when she began songwriting for other artists — Beyoncé, Rihanna and Flo Rida all owe some credit to Sia for her musical contributions to their works. Paired with her melodramatic vocals, Sia’s songwriting talents allowed her to break out as a figurehead of pop music. With her newest album This Is Acting, released Friday, she builds even further on her patented sound, incorporating an abundance of synths and drum machines into her music to help create a dramatic but occasionally repetitive experience.
Sia’s music generally revolves around her confidence, and This Is Acting is no exception. However, unlike many of her previous releases, This Is Acting takes a slightly positive spin on Sia’s traditionally narcissistic view on her own credence.
These changes begin with adjustments in production, and producers Greg Kurstin and Jesse Shatkin are to thank for this album’s cutting-edge pop sound. The album’s highlight is easily “One Million Bullets,” the only song Sia originally wrote with the intention of including on one of her solo albums. The vocals are impressive, and the calming blend of piano and drum machines helps create a moody but optimistic track. As she sings, “If you were a poet and I was a faultless muse, if you were the hero, yeah, I’d take a bullet for you,” it’s hard not to feel Sia’s emotion.
The major issue with This Is Acting, though, is its lack of personal connection. Sia herself has gone on record saying that the majority of songs for this record were not intended for her use, but rather for other artists, and it’s noticeable. This Is Acting’s first track, “Bird Set Free,” sounds as if it could have been the next big Adele hit with its melodic piano and gloomy lyrics, while tracks such as “Move Your Body” and the album’s lead single, “Alive,” sound like failed Rihanna songs.
This Is Acting really shows the pitfall of Sia’s success as a hit-maker. Sia cracks her voice or scales up production on almost every song, creating an effect of diminishing return as the album plays out. By the end of this project’s third track, “One Million Bullets,” listeners have heard everything Sia has to offer. In the end, each individual reject has its own occasional highlights, but listening to the album as a whole creates a disjointed experience.
Whether it’s impressive vocal performances or quality production, This Is Acting shines in some moments, but lacks the continuity of 1000 Forms of Fear to make it an album to listen to over and over again. Any fans will most likely buy their favorite singles from this project rather than the entire record.
Album: This Is Acting
- Genre: Electropop
- Tracks: 12
- Rating: B-