Editor's Rating

Sia's new album This Is Acting is one of those wonderful anomalies that ensure there is still life breathing into pop music and that despite everything seemingly being a carbon copy of everything else, there is always room to expand and improve on convention.

8.9
Monkey Puzzle/RCA

There is an uneasy amount of hype surrounding Sia Furler’s forthcoming album, This Is Acting – Sia
is seen as the new bastion of hope within a bloated pop music scene with her offbeat musical output
lauding her to not only critics but more crucially the general populous (no pun intended) of
mainstream audiences. You know, the “casual” music fan as they have been known to be called.
It’s been unusual, Sia’s ascension to where we are now. Her background in acid jazz back in her
homeland of Australia and performing with down-buzz merchants Zero 7 don’t readily follow in the
tropes of pop-divas. But therein lays perhaps why Sia is viewed as this new beacon of hope; that it a
deviation from what is customary that has led to crafting an interesting, “eccentric” take on pop
music – akin to to the anti-diva styling of fellow antipodean, Lorde.
Despite the controversy the music video courted, “Elastic Heart” demonstrate a somewhat angular
approach to pop. It helped that her vocals are incredibly strong and heartfelt also, but that’s been
evident as far back as Colour The Small One.
It was a slight worry when the first single, “Alive”, was chosen as the lead single from the album as
it almost felt like Sia was being shackled to what has worked before for other musicians of her ilk.
Understandably, if it was something that Adele had co-wrote and ultimately rejected and given the
popularity of Adele, one could argue their reasoning for this. One could even state that perhaps
those not familiar with Sia would take to the song as much they have with Adele. But it stifles what
makes Sia unique in the sense – a prisoner of tropes.
Which is one of the immediate things you take away when you listen to This Is Acting; that lurking
underneath each track is something formulaic and therefore “why is it so different to anything else
that is out there already?” But everything requires a solid foundation to exist in many respects and it
is what is built upon it that truly marks something a different among the rest. Thankfully, This Is
Acting has it’s pop foundations but it builds something similar and yet very divisive at the same
time. Almost like a fun house mirror where the reflection looks the same but ultimately is very
different.
It’s as if she’s taken everything she has been involved in prior to this release and woven them into
her latest release. “Unstoppable” and “Cheap Thrills” kind of delves at points into the down-tempo,
electronic attitude her previous album explored (nod to Diplo and some of his involvement), which
in turn can be attributed to her time in Zero 7. “Bird Set Free” perhaps from her experiences
working with Adele and perhaps having been soaked in her most recent surroundings, adapting to
life now no longer on the fringes of the pop spectrum. That she worked with Kanye West on the
track “Reaper”, perhaps what should be the dominant story regarding the release, has taken a back
seat to just appreciating the talent of the musician and the merits of herself alone.
This Is Acting is one of those pop albums that should be discussed amongst music fans for it’s
merits and dissected to try an unearth the wealth of influences Sia has brought to the table. It begs
repeat listens to truly appreciate the little nuances which mark it as more than just another offering
to the “conveyor belt” culture that is modern pop music and, most importantly, demands those
listens because of the sheer strength of it’s song writing. This Is Acting is one of those wonderful
anomalies that ensure there is still life breathing into pop music and that despite everything
seemingly being a carbon copy of everything else, there is always room to expand and improve on
convention.