Sia does her job well. She has released six studio albums in a wide range of genres from indie to rock to pop. She gained international recognition and commercial success as a singer after David Guetta used her demo for “Titanium” in 2011, finally launching her incredible and unique voice into the spotlight. As an accomplished songwriter, she wrote “Diamonds” for Rihanna, “Pretty Hurts” for Beyonce and “Let Me Love You (Until You Learn to Love Yourself)” for Ne-Yo, and that only skims the surface of her writing credits. But not every song is picked up by an artist, thus This Is Acting was born.
The album’s excellence is particularly impressive when you consider that this album is essentially a compilation of rejects: all of the tracks except one were written by Sia for another singer, such as Adele, Rihanna and Beyonce, and then turned down, leaving Sia with unpublished work. Believing that these songs deserved to see the light of day, Sia chose to fill her newest album with these rejected tracks. This is the most transparent Sia has been with her writing and lifestyle — forcing the songwriter to put herself in the shoes of another artist (hence, This Is Acting) and write from a completely different perspective from her own.
What Sia does well on this album is, frankly, everything — the singer/songwriter’s melodic voice pairs perfectly with the heavy but elaborate instrumentals. The album flows effortlessly and no one track sounds similar to another. From the ballads to the anthems to the electronica, Sia does an incredible job of embracing the style of every song, no note left out of place.
Despite most of the album being written for other artists, and often from their perspective, Sia embodies every track both emotionally and stylistically. From “Cheap Thrills,” a more relaxed, sultry R&B track originally written for Rihanna, to “Sweet Design,” a bright pop song likely meant for Beyonce, to “Move Your Body,” the wilder and looser track probably meant for Shakira, Sia expertly navigates every track as if each style was made for her. She so perfectly blends sounds and genres on this album with her own particular sound that it is almost impossible to notice that any of these songs were written for anyone else.
Sia is a master of the synthesizer, which is exemplified by every single track, each coming with a carefully placed synth that adds depth and complexity to the songs that would otherwise leave the music empty. Her more anthemic material, such as “Unstoppable,” “House on Fire” and “Alive,” are strong and fierce in their execution, unflinching and sharp in their character. “Cheap Thrills” and “Reaper” have more attitude than the other tracks, but they add a fun, more reckless dimension to Sia’s album.
This record truly shines, however, in its ballads. Sia’s voice is perfect for wailing out an emotionally charged message with a simple backing track, apparent on this album with “Bird Set Free,” “Space Between” and “Footprints.” All take a pause from the usual passionate energy of the album, slowing things down and allowing the listener to mellow out.
Ultimately, Sia takes ordinary music and skyrockets it into ethereal, complex, beautiful work that is unparalleled in the pop world. This album perfectly exhibits this, unafraid to push the boundaries of melodic intricacy and synthetic accompaniments. It’s a relief that all these songs were rejected in the first place because, otherwise, we wouldn’t have an unbelievable album written and performed by one of the best artists of this generation.
Contact Paige Petrashko at [email protected].