After saying she’d prefer to only write songs for other artists, and that her previous album 1000 Forms of Fear was mostly a contractual obligation, Sia returns.
With this LP, virtually all the songs were originally written for other artists by Sia – such as Adele, Rihanna, Beyoncé – but were rejected, leading Sia to record them for herself. The album title would suggest that she is singing from the perspective of someone else, hence ‘Acting’. An interesting concept, and I would presume that Sia was trying to minimalise her own personality by having fun ‘acting’ in these songs, but it leaves them feeling disconnected from each other and the album feeling more like a compilation.
Some of the more enjoyable tracks are ‘Sweet Design’ – an insanely catchy 2000s R&B-esque track – ‘Bird Set Free’ and ‘One Million Bullets’ – power ballads with pleasant, well-layered backing vocal harmonies and good contrast between verses and choruses – and ‘Reaper’ – a bouyant track with a fun beat, show-tune chord progression and some great production by Kanye. The closing track – ‘Space Between’ – is more stripped back and conclusive which successfully emphasizes the end of the LP. However, there are also tracks which resemble typical mainstream pop-fillers such as ‘Alive’ and ‘Unstoppable’. Other tracks leave the listener bored and indifferent through their recycling melodies, beats and structures along with rather bland lyrical themes.
Whilst there are decent tracks on This is Acting that are worth returning to, very little on this LP makes me feel differently about Sia’s artistic expressiveness or general talent as a singer/songwriter. On future releases, hopefully we will see a return to her roots with more acoustic, less over-produced instrumentation, less reliance on electronics and more personal, authentic lyrics.