Review of This Is Acting by Sia
Sia is one of those underrated names in music at the moment. The maker of some great pop tracks, she is often overlooked in terms of gongs and critical acclaim. This could be in no small part to her apparent unwillingness to play the game. She isn’t at every red carpet show, she isn’t constantly in the celeb pages of the Daily Mail or the Metro. More importantly she hasn’t had a consistent flow of music.
This inconsistency in release I suspect is down to musical reasons as opposed to management or label politics. I get the sense that Sia releases what she wants and when she wants it. This Is Acting feels like testimony to that sentiment, as it genuinely feels like a body of work by Sia for Sia. This is certainly a collective of work that should put her right at the forefront of people’s minds again as a singer, rather than purely a writer.
Sia has recently penned hits for the likes of Rihanna, Kylie and Beyonce, showing that she understands what it takes to make a big commercial tune, whilst producing content of credibility for artists of different styles and demands.
Unbelievably This Is Acting is Sia’s seventh studio album. However there is something a little different to this one. Sia is well respected if not eulogised about. She has a good fan base, but not huge and her previous albums have gained good sales, but not great. However This Is Acting feels like a bit of a turning point. Sia appears to have soaked up everything she has learned and how she has developed as an artist. She seems to have brought the experience and insight from working with the pop A-listers such as Rihanna and Beyonce to fruit in this collection.
The whole feel of This Is Acting is big. The production feels good, the vocals are on-point and the whole listening experience should feels to be at a slightly higher and dare I say it, more commercial level. This isn’t to say her previous efforts haven’t been great, because they have, this just feels strong and in the moment and with good promotion and PR, Sia should be on to a winner.
Jesse Shatkin returns to the fold on This Is Acting. Jesse produced the amazing Chandelier for Sia, the huge Grammy nominated hit, that featured highs and lows, quiets elements using the pitch and volume for dramatic effect. Shatkin also managed to unearth one of the best vocal performances from Sia in a track, something that has manifested itself in This Is Acting’s lead single Alive, a song co-wrote by Adele. The track ends in drama and plays on the feeling of Chandelier.
This feeling of drama spreads throughout the album. The title itself This Is Acting offers a little clue as to Sia’s state of mind while making the album. This is definitely to the heartfelt look in to her soul that Adele offers on her music, this is acting. Not an autobiography, not a commentary on her life, love or relationships.
While we believe in Sia’s assertion that this is not a look at her under a microscope, you can’t help but feel that there are hints to her own personal perspective when producing the tracks. Stand-out track Cheap Thrills is possibly the best example of this. Not that we are suggesting that Sia is out for some cheap thrills, as the track doesn’t necessarily mean that either. It is a bit more of an upbeat dance, latin number that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Shakira album. Its all about putting on your game face or your going out face. Put on the slap and your smile and hit the dancefloor, regardless of whats going on and show everybody what a great time you’re having.
Throughout the album Sia demonstrates the same well executed vocals that have laced her biggest tracks, strong and vocally arresting. However, musically the album doesn’t feel as polished and high calibre as her vocal deserves. What this does feel like is that the music is created to provide Sia with some big sellers, a boast she has yet to achieve.
The previous paragraph may now feel like a bit of a contradiction to the average reader. However, I still maintain that This Is Acting is a record by Sia for Sia. I think she has recognised all the hard work she has put in to the industry and her art and decided, now is the time to get the recognition and the commercial success to enable her to live comfortably and be seen as more than just a fantastic writer.
As negative as that previous paragraph may sound, it actually isn’t. Sia has made a great album. The album is a pop album, with great soulful vocals, which uses pop hooks and production. The masses should love it, the critics will enjoy it and Sia, may take some of the fanbase from the likes of Rihanna and Beyonce. This Is Acting is a very good pop album.