Just because some songs are meant for others, doesn’t make the album completely void of any legit reason to be bad. If it’s good? Well, we’ll just have to see, don’t we?
Sia’s seventh album, This Is Acting, may have been on a few most anticipated list for 2016 (or I could be wrong), but certainly after what I had heard from 1000 Forms of Fear, I wasn’t going into this expecting anything huge. The heated argument of whether or not her previous album ranged from “ok” to “amazing” was quite a detriment to the pop genre in itself, especially considering some of the tracks on the album being lackluster and devoid of any soul into it. A few readers will lash out at me for not being concise enough, but that’s really “in a nutshell”.
So what have we got in store for the Australian singer-songwriter, who has been doing this for over a decade, largely writing material for other artists such as Adele that comes to mind. On this latest album, Sia’s been more prominent in her promotion, but what caught my attention was that This Is Acting was “play-acting” considering most of the tracks here were made for other artists. Well, considering she’s written for a slew of singers, we can’t really go wrong with this album, right?
I don’t really know where to begin with this, so let’s just get the elephant out of the room. Or well, not really considering it’s quite the major positive, and that is Sia’s vocals. I still believe Chandelier to be an end product that was heavily influenced by the producers and that limited Sia’s capability and competence to carve out the high notes that was demanded on that record. What we got was a short-change single that took the reigns for the rest of 2014, and getting nominations for Grammys and end-of-the-year charts.
Sia’s vocals on This Is Acting is mesmerizing. Whether it be belting out the harrowing lyrics on Alive, the pop-dance groove on Move Your Body or the more toned-down and emotional drive of Unstoppable, when Sia sings, she takes centre stage. We can all agree her vocals are top-notch, but what we really stole the show was how tight the melodies were, especially considering most of the tracks weren’t really meant for herself. The Kanye West co-written track, Reaper, is a punch throw that really let Sia throw her hair down and just deliver it all on a silver platter. Compared to 1000 Forms of Fear, this really hits a new high, though people will disagree most likely.
The production does feel much more connected to the vocals and the themes as well, rather than underwhelm or sometimes overshadow Sia completely. Well, there are tracks here that still compete for no exact reason, Sweet Design’s complete lack of awareness and the jarring beats combined with Sia’s mixed vocals leads to a track that took me multiple listens to get around to, and at this point in time I just skip the track. There’s nothing there -- just jagged edges to make the song sound “unique” and “different”.
I think here’s where the criticism comes in, or controversy if you will. This is an album that was not written for Sia herself as she claims, and because of that there are tracks that simply downplay the importance of fitting into an album. Just because these tracks were meant for other artists doesn’t mean these aren’t tracks entirely. So do we discount Alive because Adele co-wrote it and it was maybe meant for her? But that would mean the vocals on that track would’ve had no attention and nobody would care because it’s not supposed to be a Sia track and thus it doesn’t count in the grand scheme of things.
So let’s go back to this -- if this is an album, and it obviously is, so whatever Sia puts out would be a corner back to her anyway. While she is deserving of some of the tracks on the album (Alive, Unstoppable, Bird Set Free), she still needs to take criticisms that will come in for Sweet Design and one other. At least there’s no Chandelier-type song here that you’ll find. You probably know by now that I’m not a big fan of the track.
This Is Acting is a major improvement over 1000 Forms of Fear. It works in many ways, and the production feels like it was tailor-made for Sia. Her vocals are magnetic as well, deafening when need be and scaled down when the songs call for it. It’s an impressive record when you take her predecessor album out of the picture, but nonetheless great album on its own.
Short review, but hey, credit where credit's due.
Favourite Tracks: Unstoppable, Bird Set Free, Reaper
Least Favourite Tracks: Sweet Design, Space Between
Benny Ong: Just your regular guy who likes soccer more than most people, and also a little downtime is pretty nice.