SIA - This Is Acting

Regular price $ 33.99

Reflecting her years as a music industry veteran, Sia Furler took a self-aware, practical approach to her return to the spotlight. She recorded her comeback album, 1000 Forms of Fear, to get out of her publishing contract; its acclaim led to This Is Acting, a collection of songs originally written for -- and rejected by -- clients such as Adele, Rihanna, and Beyoncé. As the album title hints, there's more going on here than just recycling. In a way, Furler is acting when she writes songs to fit the images these artists portray, and her own interpretations of them add another layer of theatrical distance. This isn't necessarily a bad thing -- she initially shopped "Chandelier" to Rihanna and Beyoncé before keeping it for herself and imbuing it with the unique frailty that made it a smash hit. Sia's skill at crafting songs full of drama and vulnerability that feel real, no matter how loud they get, is in full force on This Is Acting, particularly its first two tracks. Originally intended for Adele -- another master of huge-yet-genuine-sounding songs -- "Bird Set Free" and "Alive" are filled with wounded empowerment and vocal acrobatics that sound just as powerful (if less bombastic) coming from Sia. Elsewhere, Furler's songwriting is more generic, for better and worse: "Unstoppable" boasts the confidence of a hit single that could belong to any number of divas, but even a presence as compelling as Sia can't elevate "Broken Glass" or the Beyoncé reject "Footprints" above cookie-cutter balladry. Though she returns to the intimate songwriting of her pre-pop career on "One Million Bullets" -- the lone song Furler wrote for herself -- many of This Is Acting's most interesting and successful moments happen when Sia takes on more unexpected roles. A pair of songs intended for Rihanna let her show off a more lighthearted side: The spare, reggae-tinged pulse of "Cheap Thrills" echoes Major Lazer's "Lean On" (yet another song Rihanna rejected), but a backing chorus of what sounds like alien children reinforces that this is a Sia song, while "Reaper" lets her explore a more easygoing version of her seize-the-day anthems. Given that Furler didn't originally plan to make these songs her own, it's impressive that This Is Acting works as well as it does -- only the wannabe banger "Move Your Body" and "Sweet Design"'s flashy, hard-hitting R&B are truly unconvincing. For the most part, however, This Is Acting's meta-pop is another example of how cleverly Sia brings her her experiments into the mainstream.

2xLP on 1 Black and 1 White vinyl

Bird Set Free 4:12
Alive 4:23
One Million Bullets 4:12
Move Your Body 4:07
Unstoppable 3:37
Cheap Thrills 3:31
Reaper 3:39
House On Fire 4:01
Footprints 3:13
Sweet Design 2:25
Broken Glass 4:24
Space Between 4:48