Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Sia’s ‘This is Acting’ is simply that: acting.

(Lee Gwyn/Flickr)
(Lee Gwyn/Flickr)

Sia Furler has become one of the most captivating voices of the past few years. Her many ballads have a compelling, emotionally-driven sound that connects with millions. Her newest album, “This Is Acting” packs similar inspiring tracks, or so one may think.

Lyrically, nearly all of the tracks on “This is Acting” reveal a different Sia who feels depressed or alone, though not weak. Each track highlights the star’s survival and endurance that led her to success. The entirety of this narrative becomes inspiring to those who may be in the same place as her.

Sia’s music has had dark themes in the past. Songs like “Breathe Me” from her 2004 album, “Colour The Small One” have been used in numerous videos on social media for those who struggle with depression. Since then, Sia’s albums have been a mix of upbeat and depressing tracks.

“This Is Acting,” however, is consistently joyful and optimistic. No matter how troubled the problems she sang about were, she always resolved them by the end of the track. In the first single, “Bird Set Free,” the subject feels despondent and low before finding herself and her happiness. It reflects that Sia, despite her large-scale fame, writes for herself, for love and not for anyone else.

As optimistic and positive as the album is, there is a feeling of repetition and inconsistency in the music. There is no connection between any of the tracks and the only thing that brings them together is the singer’s belting and lyrics. Furler writes a song, gives it a title, then continues to repeat and belt that title over and over. It can only work so many times.

What makes the tracks inconsistent is that they are all written to be singles and chart toppers from the success she has had in the past. Unfortunately, this tactic does not work for a single artist’s album.

Sia revealed in an interview with New Musical Express that this album was not actually written for her, but instead, she had written these songs for other artists who rejected them– hence the title, “This Is Acting.” The fact that she claims that it is acting and not genuine, makes the entire album feel insincere. It makes the happiness and progress she made seem like a mask for someone else. The longer one listens, it becomes apparent that these works should have been on different albums.

With the same pattern of a repetitive chorus, Sia’s vocals become almost boring. For an artist with Sia’s caliber and talent to deliver an underwhelming record is shocking. The structure for each track remains static and the album becomes 12 hit songs meant for different artists.

The album features big co-writers, like Adele and Kanye West, and successful producers such as Greg Kurstin and Jesse Shatkin. Despite the big names, it still underwhelms. For the most part, the album feels like a collection of rejected tracks that could have been a part of her previous album, “1000 Forms of Fear.”

Aside from Sia’s disconnect, the album still carries important messages and has the potential to be an emotionally moving, passionate muse for any listener. Her lyrical quality has not declined, her vocals seem stronger than ever and she still holds the power to sing and create beautiful songs, yet together it comes nowhere near the level of “1000 Forms of Fear.” Any album that followed had massive shoes to fill and “This is Acting” does not accomplish that.

It could have been exactly what Sia intended, knowing that whatever succeeded “1000 Forms of Fear” could never reach the mark she made two years ago. “This is Acting” ultimately became exactly what Sia said it was: acting. It’s up to the listener to decide whether they would like to see this album as a facade or the long-awaited resolution they needed from her.  

Troy Kowalchuk can be reached at [email protected].

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    DuncanFeb 21, 2016 at 11:11 pm

    I disagree, i think its an awesome album. Sia wrote these songs, they come from her heart regardless if they were wrote to sell to other artists. Her voice captivates me.