Sia’s new effort shows tonal shift


While Sia has been in the music business for nearly 20 years, it wasn’t until she wrote “Titanium,” a David Guetta single, that she became widely known. Her popularity came full circle with the release of “1,000 Forms of Fear” and its lead single, “Chandelier.” Almost two years later, Sia released her most recent album, “This is Acting.”

If the occasional Sia listener enjoyed the sound and dark tone of her previous album, “1,000 Forms of Fear,” and expected the same for “This is Acting,” they will be sorely disappointed. “This is Acting” is a major tonal shift, being much more pop-oriented than her previous release.

As with everything Sia has released, one thing has remained consistent, and that has been her vocals.

Sia can give a softer delivery, much like in the song “Footprints,” or belt heart shattering, emotion-filled melodies heard in “Alive,” “Reaper” or “Space Between.”

Sia has one of the most unique voices in music today. She’s instantly recognizable and knows how to play with the listeners’ emotions with the way she sings. She holds nothing back in any of the songs.

Arguably, one of her major strengths is her songwriting ability. With songs like “Diamonds” (made famous by Rhianna), “Chandelier,” “Soon We’ll Be Found” and “Breathe Me” in her repertoire, it is clear that Sia knows how to craft beautiful poetry and personal stories into her songs.

Though “This is Acting” is not as personal as her previous album did, the songwriting remains fairly consistent. Songs like “Alive,” “Bird Set Free” and “Unstoppable” show that her songwriting is still one of her strong suits.

However, a lot of the songs on “This is Acting” seem to be much simpler, lyrically. Could this be due to the album not being as personal as “1,000 Forms of Fear”? Possibly. It is not to say that these songs are bad by any means, but a lot of them lack an emotional impact.

One aspect that was fairly disappointing is that this album, unlike her previous album, is mostly just an OK selection of songs. Nothing is overly-special about a lot of them. “Alive” is really the only song that can stand up as a major “hit.”

Her last album was filled with an abundance of songs that felt like they were hits, with only two or three on that album just feeling OK.

But it seems that the opposite is true for this album. Again, that is not to say that the songs aren’t amazing, they just don’t feel overly-special. For the most part, I was saying to myself, “OK this is good” rather than “Oh wow! What a track!” like I was for “1,000 Forms of Fear.”

The major negative that I found with this album was the track “Sweet Design.” I was completely thrown-off that this was even a Sia song. I’m not going to sugarcoat it, this track is just terrible.

Starting with a vocal sample from the “Thong Song” by Sisqo, the song is a mess of confusing lyrics and sexual-overtones. It is hard to believe that this is a Sia song, considering she has written so much better in the past.

It would not surprise me if this was written for another artist (Nicki Minaj comes to mind) like she had for “Chandelier” (it was written for Rhianna) but they turned it down. It is a massive disappointment.

Musically, “This is Acting” is very much the opposite of “1,000 Forms of Fear,” with the overall album being much more pop and even having a few dance tracks (“Move Your Body,” “Sweet Design”). Though this album is not nearly as personal, nor as powerful as “1,000 Forms of Fear” that should not deter anyone from listening to this album (although I would recommend skipping “Sweet Design” altogether). It is, after all, Sia.

Her work is still admirable. The songs are very enjoyable here, and though they may not compare to her previous work, I guarantee a few of the tracks on this album will be stuck in your head.