Album review: Sia’s ‘This is Acting’ takes listeners through a dynamic journey

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By Graciela Becerra 

Features Editor

gbecerr1@jccc.edu

With singles like “Chandelier” and “Elastic Heart,” Sia managed to attain mainstream success. Two years later, she’s back with her new album, “This is Acting.”

Respected for her ability to compose music that’s strong in lyrical content, Sia has written for artists like Christina Aguilera, Beyoncé and Rihanna. Appropriately titled “This is Acting,” the album contains songs that weren’t written from her perspective. Instead, they were written by Sia for other artists but got rejected.

Although the songs weren’t initially intended for herself, they contain themes that will be familiar to anyone that has previously listened to one of her albums. Most commonly, she sings about struggle and triumph, often alluding to her history with substance abuse, true love and a complicated relationship with her father.

“This is Acting” is organized in such a way that it takes the audience through a turbulent journey, complete with its ups and downs.

Beginning with “Bird Set Free” and “Alive,” both written by Adele, the album is off to a good start. Obviously intended to be empowerment songs, she sings about having difficulties and overcoming them. In “Bird Set Free,” Sia becomes carefree of what others have to say about her, comparing herself to a bird when it sings.

“One Million Bullets” introduces a romantic relationship and describes feeling safe in the embrace of someone you love. Sia briefly states that she hasn’t had the best luck in previous relationships but feels so secure in this one that she’s prepared to face hardships should they arise, singing “I want you to know that I’d take a million bullets…how many would you take?”

Like any pop album, “This is Acting” is sprinkled with a few dance tracks. Scattered throughout the album, the songs aren’t impressive in terms of lyrical content. Perhaps the most unusual club song is “Sweet Design.” The lyrics are sung so quickly that it’s difficult to make out what they are, the song has no real meaning and is so strange that it’s incomprehensible why anyone, let alone Sia, would put this on their album.

“Unstoppable” is where the journey begins to take a turn for the worse. Sia sings about faking confidence and putting on a brave face because she’s afraid of showing her true feelings. The placement of this song questions whether or not she really meant what she was singing in the first two tracks, or if she was also faking triumph in “Bird Set Free” and “Alive.”

In “Reaper” which is an upbeat song about hitting rock bottom and engaging in hazardous circumstances, Sia sings about staring the Grim Reaper in the face but then managing to turn her life around, telling the Reaper he’s going to have to come back another day.

“House on Fire” is where the journey becomes dangerous once again. In a metaphor, Sia compares herself to a house on fire and compares whom I assume to be her lover, but could also be an unhealthy substance, to oxygen. The oxygen feeds the fire, and she wants to keep burning, not giving up something that is obviously bad for her.

The last song on the standard album, titled “Space Between,” is the only ballad. It describes a relationship in which there is too much space between the two people and it’s evident the relationship will come to an end soon. The song is clearly an unhappy one and it makes you wonder why it was chosen to be the last, ending the journey on an unhappy note.

However, the deluxe version includes two additional songs that both seem to be relatively happy. This allows listeners to choose their own ending, finishing the journey in whichever way they choose or buy.

 

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