This is Music

Album review by Ching Suen

Sia Furler kicked off 2016 with a bang, releasing a follow up album This is Acting from 2015’s wildly successful 1000 Forms of Fear before January was over. The album title seems to refer to several things. One of them is Sia’s choice to remain under a semblance of anonymity by hiding her face under a huge wig onstage and having the spotlight be put onto other performers such as dancers. The second, and perhaps more obvious inference to be made is that each song on the record is a composition originally written for and rejected by other A-list artists, allowing Sia to adopt their personas.

For example, in Reaper, originally written for Rihanna’s Anti, Sia develops a lazy drawl. In Move Your Body, which was intended for Shakira, Sia used the Colombian singer’s distinct accent throughout the song — a fact to which she has admitted herself! However, her ‘acting’ in these two songs have been passed off by critics as simply reproducing existing styles and not adding any depth in terms of definition of character.

This is Acting is a display of Sia’s raw vocal power and passion, which the masking of her identity only seems to intensify. It tells a story of liberation from doubts and worries expressed in 1000 Forms of Fear, and illustrates the strength taken to achieve that freedom, as shown by the graduation of negativity to positive outlook. Several of the songs in the album are worth exceptional consideration and subsequent praise because of this. Broken Glass runs as a typical ballad, despite straying from the traditional route of lamenting lost love and being about not giving up and hope. A unexpected twist as added at the end though, as not just one, but two key modulations are thrown in. Alive, released as the promotional lead single in September 2015, is one of, if not the most well-received songs within the album, featuring soaring vocals crescendoing to a defiant “I’m still breathing / I’m alive”. In Bird Set Free, Sia goes from “Clipped wings, I was a broken thing / Had a voice had a voice but I could not sing” to “I don’t care if I sing off-key, I find myself in my melodies / I sing for love, I sing for me”. In fact, the production journey of Bird Set Free is a triumph in itself. Originally written for Pitch Perfect 2, it was abandoned in favour of Flashlight, sung by Jessie J. Then, it was rejected by Rihanna and recorded by Adele, but still it did not make it into any of the two singers’ albums. With its release under Sia’s name, it now adds to her repertoire of musical achievements under her belt.

“I didn’t go in thinking ‘this is something I would say’. It’s more like play-acting. It’s fun.” For Sia, buoyed up by the success of her previous album, This is Acting is just another fun journey.

TL;DR: multiple singers’ trash have become Sia’s treasure as she releases a wildly successful album.

Track listing:
1. Bird Set Free
2. Alive
3. One Million Bullets
4. Move Your Body
5. Unstoppable
6. Cheap Thrills
7. Reaper
8. House On Fire
9. Footprints
10. Sweet Design
11. Broken Glass
12. Space Between

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