We were left with 1000 Forms Of Fear almost a year ago now and still the hits that came off that album dominate our radios and let’s be honest, every singing competition on our televisions, as amateurs attempt to reach the heights of Chandelier with limited luck. Thankfully, Sia has returned to our ears and our hearts with her 7th full length studio release, This Is Acting.
Sia is notably a songwriter for hire, writing on some of the biggest selling pop hits of our time and making absolutely no secret of it, even admitting that some were a bit ‘cheesy’. Despite this, her formula of victim to victory works and her huge songs have made some huge splashes in the charts over the last few years. This is what makes this release so interesting – before you even press play on the first track – because it’s essentially an album made up of rejected songs.
Bird Set Free and Alive, the first two tracks on the album and arguably the best two tracks too, feel almost like a pair, weaving together in a way that tells a story of strength, persistence and eventually freedom.
A dark melody introduces Bird Set Free, while accompanying lyrics like, “Clipped wings, I was a broken thing” paint a picture of utter struggle. The tension builds through the pre-chorus with the help of Sia’s almost terrifyingly foreboding vocals as she basically screams, “I don’t wanna die” with war drums sounding in the distance. Once the chorus hits, an overwhelming sense of relief washes over the song and you’re thrust into a different narrative, one where you can fight back and one where you’re strong.
This sense of freedom and strength leaks its way into Alive, the second song and also first single off This Is Acting. This track starts off a little solemn too, but unlike Bird Set Free, there’s an urgency in the beat that’s immensely ever-present the moment that first note is sung. Eventually it leads to victory too, but in a very different way. One that somehow feels a bit like growing up, surviving the trials of life and learning who you are.
The chorus of Sia repeatedly singing, “I’m still breathing, I’m alive,” is so completely soul crushingly raw, that it really drives this song into an anthem position. The quality of Sia’s tone digs at the very core of any person who’s ever felt beaten down or lost and it’s this aspect that will have people screaming their lungs out to Alive in their room at midnight. Although rumoured to have been written for Adele – which is clear in the licks and indentations in the melody – this song without Sia’s unique vocals just would not have been the same.
Reaper is hard not to love, it’s catchy as all hell and you can’t not tap your foot or nod your head along. But amongst the simple beat and the happy melody is a really strong message – don’t give up. House On Fire is literally the feeling of being all consumed by someone, it’s love and it’s definitely lust and every note feels true to its story.
This Is Acting is somewhat bizarre. There’s an air of difference in each song – compare the stillness of Space Between to the actual chaos of Sweet Design – and their striking contrasts very obviously point out the idea behind the album, not to mention the title. Sia is literally acting out the genres and roles of her peers, but it’s done in a way that doesn’t feel fake or conceited at all. In fact it feels very true to who Sia is, as both an artist and a writer. This Is Acting may be an album made up of supposed rejects, but she has resurrected them from their fate and created something beautifully unique and inspiring.